Franchising autism “biomed” woo

Remember Mark and David Geier?

I wouldn’t be surprised if regular readers may have forgotten about this father-son tag team of anti-vaccine lunacy and autism woo. After all, I haven’t written about them since journalist Trine Tsouderos did her expose of their “Lupron protocol” for the Chicago Tribune nine months ago. Long time readers, however, will remember the Geiers. They were one of the very first autism-related topics I wrote about after joining ScienceBlogs four years ago, when I wrote about them in a little ditty I called Why not just castrate them? The reason that I gave my post the title I did was to express my shock at the Geiers’ use of a powerful anti-sex hormone drug Lupron, which is most commonly used to reduce testosterone to castrate levels in men with prostate cancer or to shut down female sex hormones as a part of in vitro fertilization cycles so that the process is completely controlled by exogenously administered hormones, on autistic children. It is not called chemical castration for nothing. It’s also used sometimes to treat precocious puberty, but that is a rare diagnosis in real pediatric endocrinologists’ offices. Unfortunately, in the Geiers’ office, it’s a very common diagnosis, even in children who are clearly too old for the diagnosis.

Even more incredible is the rationale they use to justify their woo. Basically, they claim that testosterone forms “sheets” that bind to mercury (left in the brain by those evil vaccines, of course!) and that these “testosterone sheets” make mercury harder to chelate. By lowering testosterone levels, claim the Geiers in a feat of armchair science, they get rid of the testosterone sheets and make mercury easier to chelate. What they fail to mention is that the only time testosterone-mercury complexes have ever been observed experimentally involved dissolving equal parts of mercuric chloride and testosterone in benzene. Obviously, this is a condition never seen in living tissues, much less brains, although one wonders whether Mark and David Geiers’ brains have been soaked in hot benzene.

Benzene or no benzene, there are apparently a lot of parents of autistic children out there who are either desperate enough or gullible enough or, more likely both, and the Geiers have no compunction whatsoever about taking advantage of that combination. In fact, I just learned that they are apparently advertising for their franchise. In an e-mail that’s gone out to some “biomed” mailing lists (nicely forwarded to me by my spies), we find out that the Geiers are still at it:

For Immed. Release
February 15, 2010

PRESS RELEASE CONTACTS:
Mark R. Geier, MD, PhD, FACMG, FACE
Founder & Medical Director
Tel. : 301-989-0548
E-mail: mgeier@comcast.net

WASHINGTON, DC – ASD Centers LLC is proud to announce its NEW web site: http://www.AutismTreatmentClinics.com as well as the opening of new treatment clinics in both Florida and Kentucky.

ASD Centers, LLC is committed to providing each patient with an exceptional level of care and attention. At the ASD Centers, LLC we are proud to be physician owned and operated.

Our dedicated staff works together as a team to provide high-quality comprehensive care.

Our compassionate and understanding doctors take pride in paying close attention to each patient’s needs. ASD Centers is committed to:

a. Listening to the concerns of the parents of those who are not competent and/or unable to speak for each person we treat as well those patients who are able speak for themselves,

b. Clinically assessing and then addressing each of our patient’s clinically identified medical issues and

c. Helping those who have a diagnosis of an autism spectrum, or related disorders, to recover from the underlying medical issues that produce the clinical symptoms of the diagnosed medical conditions for which we have clinically sound therapies.

Testing/Treatment Areas:

** Genetic Markers (DNA Fragile X Syndrome, Blood Chromosome, Chromosome Microarrays, DNA Rett Syndrome, Angelman/Prader Willi Syndrome)

** Mitochondrial Dysfunction (Carnitine, Lactic Acid, Ammonia, Hand Muscle-strength Testing)

** Hormone Imbalances (Total Testosterone, Free Testosterone, DHEA, DHEA-S, Andros- tenedione, Dihydrotestosterone, Total Estrogens, Estrone, Estradiol, ACTH, Aldosterone, Prolactin, FSH, LH)

** Oxidative Stress/Inflammation (Neopterin, Lipid Peroxides)

** Detoxification Pathways (Glutathione, Cystathionine, Homocysteine, Methionine)

** Immune System Function (Immune Deficiency Profile, HLA-Testing, Immune Complexes, Food Allergies, Celiac’s Disease)

** Heavy Metals (Porphyrins, Blood Metals, Urinary Metals)

** Neurological Dysfunction (Brain MRI scans, Brain SPECT scans)

** General Health Status (Comphrensive Metabolic Panel)

## A significant portion of all the net revenues that are generated by the ASD Centers are donated to the non-profit 501(c)(3) Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc. and to the non-profit 501(c)(3) CoMeD, Inc., which are corporations dedicated to autism research and advocacy efforts.

That’s nice. The Institute of Chronic Illnesses, as longtime readers may recall, is the Geiers’ elusive institute, the institute through which the Geiers, using an institutional review board (IRB) packed with Geier cronies and headed by Mark Geier himself, “reviewed” the Geiers’ Lupron “studies” and–surprise! surprise!–approved them as being ethical when clearly they were not. The conflict of interest was astounding, given that Mark Geier chaired the committee that was evaluating his own study. Even if the proposed study had a sound basis in science (which it did not), such an arrangement contravenes federal regulations and represents a conflict of interest that would make a big pharma executive blush. All the attention over the last couple of weeks has been on Andrew Wakefield, whose 1998 Lancet study was bankrolled by trial lawyers, who flouted research ethics by performing medically unnecessary invasive procedures on autistic children in the name of bogus “research,” and who paid children £5 at a birthday party to let him draw their blood. However, compared to the Geiers, Andrew Wakefield seems almost ethical and reasonable. Almost.

The Geiers are also apparently a lot more entrepreneurial. Whereas Andrew Wakefield only has Thoughtful House, as this page on their website shows, in addition to their newest locations in Florida and Kentucky the Geiers have metastasized to many states, including Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, Missouri, and Indiana. They’re franchising like McDonald’s. I looked at the staff who are heading up the Geier franchises and wonder ow they get away with it. Of all of them, only one (Dr. Georgia Davis, who really should know better but apparently doesn’t) is a pediatrician. Otherwise we have a neuroradiologist (Dr. David A. Clayman), a “genetic counselor” (Dr. Mark Geier), and an OB/GYN (Dr. John L. Young). None of the rest are physicians, although one is a Ph.D. analytical chemist, who also really should know better, at least about the Geiers’ claims about testosterone and mercury.

Of course, being a chemist, he may have no clue about the rest of the motherlode of autism woo on the Geiers’ website. It’s all there: “hormone imbalances” (i.e., allegedly precocious puberty and elevated testosterone levels), “detoxification” pathways, immune system “dysfunction,” and, of course, “heavy metal toxicity.” It’s a veritable cornucopia of autism “biomed” woo. In any case, given the lack of expertise in endocrinology, I find it astounding that the Geiers can make the claim that they offer “assistance for patients diagnosed on the autism spectrum in the areas of genetics, endocrinology, neurology, psychiatry, internal medicine, nuclear medicine, radiology, and reproductive medicine.”

So what we have here is, as Mike Stanton points out, a nasty little franchise, and that franchise is metastasizing. Even more dubious, as mentioned in the press release above, a “significant portion of all the net revenues” generated from the ASD Centers will be funneled into Institute of Chronic Illnesses, Inc. and CoMeD, Inc., the former of which lists Mark Geier as its President and David Geier as its Vice-President and the latter of which lists Geiers crony Lisa Sykes as its President and lists as its address 14 Redgate Court, Silver Spring, Maryland 20905, which happens to be Mark Geiers home. Ironically enough, this is the same address listed as the ICI’s address too. Nice arrangement, eh? The money from ASD Centers is “donated” to the ICI and CoMeD, both of which are controlled by either the Geiers or their cronies. This money then goes into more dubious “research.”

After reading this press release, I’ve concluded that there’s one thing I fear, and that is that Andrew Wakefield will see what the Geiers have done and get the idea to franchise his Thoughtful House woo throughout the country. Before long we could have two major franchises pushing autism “biomed” throughout the country.

I think I just scared myself. Certainly parents of autistic children should be scared. Heck, all parents should be scared, because the promotion of anti-vaccine views through such franchises could result in lower vaccination rates for all and the return of vaccine-preventable diseases.