Autism Drug Secretin Found Ineffective

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.

Jan 7, 2004 -- For the past several years, an experimental drug called secretin has offered hope to some parents of autistic children. Secretin is a hormone made by the glands in the wall of the small intestine. It stimulates pancreatic secretion.

The largest clinical trial of secretin to date has shown that the drug is no better than a placebo ("sugar pill") in improving the social interaction of young children with autism. The study was done by Repligen, the company licensed to produce secretin. In the study 132 children, from 2 years 8 months to 4 years 11 months, were given six doses each intravenously of secretin. The results showed that the recipients of the drug did not improve more than those who received the placebo when evaluated by parents or psychologists.

This failure casts serious doubt on whether secretin will get to market as a treatment for autism. It deals a blow to everyone, parents and some doctors alike, who have advocated the development of secretin for autism.

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