Health Minister warns against ‘scam’ autism treatment

Health Minister warns against ‘scam’ autism treatment

A “scam” autism treatment at clinics in Cork and Dublin is charging thousands of euro for what it says is a stem-cell-based procedure. The Irish Examiner has alerted Health Minister, Simon Harris, and the health product watchdog, to the ‘treatment’, and both have warned the public not to fall for the scam.

One mother says she was quoted treatment for thousands of euro, which would involve flying her children to Serbia for invasive surgery. The Irish Examiner started making inquiries about the Autism Regenerative Centre last week.

Since then, the centre has removed all references to Ireland from its website and Facebook page. Mr Harris has urged the public to avoid such treatments.

“There is no evidence that shows this therapy to be effective,” Mr Harris told the Irish Examiner. “Autism cannot be cured and such clinics are not only scams, but deeply insulting to autistic people and families.

“There are many evidence-based approaches to supporting autistic people, including speech-and-language and occupational therapy. But, sadly, there are people who will try to cash in on a family coming to understand a diagnosis and their needs.

Families should be deeply sceptical and stay away from anyone posing as a clinician, offering therapies which do not have an evidence base.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) — the body responsible for approving medicines in Ireland — said it does not recognise stem-cell therapy for autism and that it is “following up on this matter”.

“The HPRA has concerns about such a treatment,” a spokesperson said. “There are currently no authorised stem-cell therapies for the indication of autism.”

The Irish Examiner has contacted the centre’s clinic manager in Ireland by phone and email.

A list of queries went unanswered at time of publication. Mr Harris said a HSE Autism Plan, currently in development, is prioritising how to better guide and support families and “better educate the public to challenge health myths around autism”.


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