The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered 150 homeopaths to stop claiming they can cure autism. The Guardian reports that five homeopaths are facing prosecution for advertising Cease “therapy”, which is not supported by scientific evidence and can be harmful to children. The report says the National Autistic Society praised the advertising watchdog’s decision, saying autism was not a disease to be cured but a lifelong part of many people’s identity.
Cease, or Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression, is supposedly a method of ridding children of toxins – including from vaccines and medication – that some homeopaths claim cause autism. Therapists claim they can cure autistic children using homeopathic remedies and dietary supplements. The report says the treatment includes giving children four to five times more zinc than is recommended by the Health Department, and 200 times more vitamin C. Excessive quantities of vitamin C can cause diarrhoea and vomiting. Cease therapists claim this response is evidence of the child’s body purging itself of toxins.
The ASA’s CEO, Guy Parker, is quoted in the report as saying there were concerns about false and potentially harmful treatments being advertised by Cease practitioners online. He said: “We sent out enforcement notices to 150 Cease therapists operating in the UK. We have set out very clearly that they must not make either direct or implied claims in their ads, including on their own websites, that their therapy can either treat or cure autism. Those failing to get their houses in order will be targeted with further sanctions.”
Experts say the therapy may be psychologically as well as physically damaging. Professor Nicola Martin, of London South Bank University, who advised the Westminster commission on autism, said in the report: “It’s really harmful to give parents the idea that the way to love and nurture their autistic child is to try and cure their autism.”
The director of the National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, Carol Povey, said: “Many autistic people feel that their autism is a core part of their identity. It is deeply offensive for anyone to claim that unproven and even harmful therapies and products can ‘cure’ autism – and particularly appalling where people target vulnerable families.”
Emma Dalmayne, who has been campaigning for five years for legislation against fake cures for autism, is quoted in the report as saying: “As an autistic adult it disgusts me that these charlatans are taking advantage of parents.”
A minority of Cease therapists in the UK are members of the Society of Homeopaths, which is regulated by the Professional Standards Authority. The society said the therapy may be renamed to avoid being misleading and it would take action to avoid further unfounded claims being made.
The report says Cease was invented by a Dutch doctor, Tinus Smits, who died of cancer in 2010. Andrew Wakefield, a former gastroenterologist, was struck off the UK medical register in 2010 over his comprehensively discredited claim that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine caused autism.The Guardian report