Secretin as a Treatment for Autism: A Review of the Evidence
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- Esch, B.E. & Carr, J.E. J Autism Dev Disord (2004) 34: 543. doi:10.1007/s10803-004-2549-6
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Secretin is used in the United States for diagnosis of pancreatic gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction and disease. Repeated therapeutic use has not been approved. Widespread interest in secretin as a treatment for autism followed media reports of behavioral improvements in an autistic child who received the hormone during a GI diagnostic procedure. International demand for secretin soared in the absence of experimental evidence of its efficacy for autism. This review presents a brief history of secretin's rise to popularity and summarizes research on secretin as a treatment for autism. Seventeen studies are reviewed comparing the effects of secretin forms, dosage levels, and dosing intervals on outcome measures with approximately 600 children. Twelve of 13 placebo-controlled studies failed to demonstrate the differential efficacy of secretin. Implications for advocating treatment in the absence of empirical evidence are discussed.