Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reported Rise in Autism Coincides with Rise in Autism Treatment Drugs

SAN NARCISO, Calif. -- According to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism disorders have increased more than 60 percent over the last four years. Behavioral health scientist Catherine Rice, Ph.D., says it’s difficult to tell how much this data reflects actual increases in the disorder versus improvements in identifying conditions. Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., the chief science officer for Autism Speaks, told WebMD, “Two decades ago, we were looking at a prevalence of one in 5,000 children. Now we’re looking at one in 100. That really is a staggering increase.”

But this dark cloud has a silver lining. Scientists think they may have identified the mutated chromosome responsible for causing the onset of the disorder. More importantly, and perhaps more presciently, pharmaceutical companies released an unprecedented number of drugs targeted at suppressing it, months before it was even discovered.



Fragile X
Mark Bear, who directs the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, has discovered a system in the brain that could dramatically improve the quality of life for thousands of people with Fragile X.

Fragile X is a mutation on the X chromosome that can cause mental retardation and autism. Unlike the hotly debated Chemical X, which bestows superhuman abilities and the power of flight on prepubescent girls in undocumented studies, Fragile X appears to disrupt a system in the brain that regulates synapses -- the connections between brain cells. Bear equated the condition to a car with missing breaks. Others have equated it to a marathon bong session at a Burning Man festival.

“Dire as it may seem, this news couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Quint Scroop, a senior lobbyist and moral champion from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which has also lined up with a far-right Christian advocacy group to fight legislation supporting abortion-rights issues.

“Coincidentally enough,” Scroop continued, “the tremendous increase in the number of autism cases being diagnosed by doctors correlates directly to announcements by pharmaceutical companies that they have identified a vast array of drugs that can be used to treat autism. With so many of these doctors under contract with drug manufacturers, access to the medications is expedited. It’s really a win-win for autistics.”

New Drugs Winning the War
“I’ve always found the term ‘war on drugs’ quaint,” Scroop opined. “It means there’s a war and that drugs are winning. Well, there is a war -- against this crippling disorder we call autism. There’s no reason why the people who suffer from it need to remain pariahs, throwing in their lots with other incurables. And, yes, the drugs will prevail.”

Scientists employed by leading pharmaceutical companies have indeed identified several drugs that seem to correct the problems inherent to Fragile X Syndrome. And they’re busy making even more. Cambridge, MA-based Seaside Therapeutics, for example, revealed that is has raised $30 million to pursue clinical trial development of new therapies for Fragile X and autism.

“Some of the most exciting developments with these drugs are the side benefits,” extolled a spokesperson for another leading drug producer. “In addition to curbing complications with Fragile X, our drugs are also proving to make children more docile and controllable. They stop toddler depression, abate restless leg syndrome, and even increase penis size.”

With the exception of commonplace side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, nose bleeds, suicidal thoughts, risk of stroke, irrational fear of water, and accelerated weight gain, the drugs are sure to succeed.

“We’re really pushing hard for legislation to enforce mandatory autism screening and treatments in the public schools,” boasted Scroop. “Parents should listen to and proactively follow the screening recommendations of our physicians, regardless of whether they have concerns.”

The proposed -- and certain to pass -- public testing and treatment program will be administered initially by only those doctors approved by the drugs’ manufacturers.

“It’s a safety thing,” Scroop explained.

And as far as screening, the earlier the better. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages routine screening of children for autism at ages 18 and 24 months. The CDC released similar findings in its always upbeat Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the primary source of interesting statistics and fun facts used years ago by McDonald’s for its now defunct “Sad Meal” menu.
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