Could this be the miracle drug to cure autism? | News
Namenda is a drug on the market currently approved for treating Alzheimer's patients. But would you believe it if we said there was a doctor in Iowa prescribing this medicine to autistic children?
Dr. Randall Kavalier, a Des Moines psychiatrist, claims he may have found the answer for the many children living with autism.
About six years ago, Dr. Kavalier says he read a little known study.
He says, "It was huge for me because when I thought about the medicine they used, Namenda, which is of course for Alzheimer's disease, it make's absolute sense to me."
Dr. Kavalier says Namenda clears up the interference among signals to nerves in the brain. And while it is meant to help elderly brains with memory, he says it can also affect young brains that are just developing.
Stacy Brakefield's daughter has a brain injury and her son is autistic. After just six months on Namenda, she says both of her children have changed for the better.
"It is a miracle drug," she says, "Am I going to say it's the cure for either one of the things my kids have? I wouldn't say cure. I would say it's a thing to help the journey be easier. That's what I call Namenda."
But not every parent of an autistic child is sold on this said miracle drug.
Kelly O'Donnell's son Ben also suffers from autism. But this Virginia Beach mother says she would never think of putting her child on a drug that isn't FDA approved for someone his age, or with his disability.
She says, "You're watching commercials and they have all these terrible side-effects. The side-effects are almost as long as the rest of the commercial. To put your child on something like that when there's no proven good or bad is a really scary thing."
Dr. Kavalier knows that some parents and even others in the medical field don't agree with him.
Dr. John Harrington is one of the leading autism specialists at CHKD.
He says, "You don't want to put your child into the experimental group, unless we're actually doing a trial."
He says Namenda hasn't been proven effective and has yet to be proven safe so he would advise parents to be careful.
Dr. Harrington says Namenda was used a few times in two open trials. One study, he says, showed minimal improvement in language. But he says neither helped with behavior which actually got worse on the medication.
"The two studies that have been done have been open label," Dr. Harrington says. "They know what they are getting. So if I told you this is going to help your child, there's a strong placebo affect that is going to help my child. So you are going to believe it's helping your child even though you are doing five other things to help your child."
But the parents in Dr. Kavalier's practive disagree. They say Namenda is a miracle drug.
Amanda Gross' daughter Abby suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.
For years, Abby didn't talk and frowned in every picture. But today, an 11-year-old Abby says Namenda changed her life.
She says, "I started wanting to talk more?I just wanted to tell about my day to my parents and everything."
Abby now smiles and talks and plays sports.
Dr. Kavalier says she's an example of how Namenda can work.
"I just don't want people to know that I have a disorder," Abby says. "I just want to act like I'm some normal kid."
There is good news for parents who are curious about experimenting with Namenda. Right now the organization "Autism Speaks" is funding several different drug trials.
One of those drugs they are studying is Namenda. It will take several years to gather all the data and provide a solid recommendation for FDA approval.
In the meantime, doctors say that there are some other drugs that have been studied and approved to help with the symptoms of autism. Those include Risperidone and Abilify. But as always, consult with your doctor to see which medications can help your child.