In the spirit of the newest Harry Potter book, Autism Speaks kindly tied Snape with autism so I could dream up that snappy (Snapey?) headline about dark magic unfolding before us.
The Chair of Autism Speaks Treatment board is Eric Hollander. Professor Hollander has been associated with a British Company called Neuropharm since its inception. Here's what Neuropharm writes about him on their site:
"Professor Eric Hollander
Autism Programme Consultant
Professor Eric Hollander is Esther and Joseph Klingenstein Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (MSSM) in New York City. He is also Director of the Seaver and Greater New York Autism Center of Excellence (NIH STAART Center) and Director of Clinical Psychopharmacology at MSSM. Professor Hollander serves as a reviewer for 8 medical journals and has published more than 450 scientific reports in the psychiatric field. He recently edited the textbook Autistic Spectrum Disorders and co-edited The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Anxiety Disorders. Professor Hollander is a consultant to Neuropharm and was granted the US Orphan Drug designation for fluoxetine in autism in 1999."
Back to Harry Potter.
What is the name of one of Neuropharm's founders? Dr. Snape! Same name as the most evil teacher at Hogwarts in JK Rowling's books. How's that for pulling a rabbit out of the hat?
Dr. Michael Snape does not sport Potions Master Severus Snape's long, greasy hair. In fact, I do hope that Dr. Snape has NOT devoted his career to developing pharmaceuticals for hair growth, as his glabrous head would undermine his reputation in the field of creating successful drugs.
It seems that the Neuropharm folks, Eric Hollander's people, are going to be working on their own potion for autism in conjunction with Autism Speaks. (Click the word potion to read the press release.) They even gave the study a name far prettier than "Snape." Sofia, which stands for the Study of Fluoxetine in Autism.
Fluoxetine, by the way, goes by another commercial name. PROZAC. Eli Lilly's blockbuster drug. Over 21,000,000 prescriptions were written for Prozac/Fluoxetine in 2006. That's a crowd, not an orphan. And this is the same drug that comes with the potential side effect of driving children to darkest depression and even to attempt suicide. (Hmmm, I wonder if a certain highly compensated Executive Director will enroll her child in the study and save herself the effort of driving off that bridge?)
Autism Speak's big magic trick is to "expedite drug trials" using a well known, previously tested psychiatric drug on children with autism, that just so happens to have been designated an orphan drug for its Chairman of Treatment. The details of that designation by the FDA in 1998 are here.
Orphan drugs are designated for conditions that are RARE, and unlikely to get funding from companies because of a limited market. Autism wasn't rare in 1998. It was increasing at an alarming rate.
Did Eric Hollander have a crystal ball to see the trend to today's 1 in 150 diagnosis rate and envision a jackpot whereby Prozac would become a treatment for hundreds of thousands of children? If so, why would he EVER want to see autism disappear?
I think this possible conflict of interest is black magic at its worst. It's AS playing three card Monty. You know who wins in that card trick? The dealer.
I'll give my three girls wing of bat and eye of newt first.
Kim Stagliano is editor of The Rescue Post, a Huffington Post blogger and writer. She lives in Connecticut with her husband Mark and their three beautiful daughters, who happen to have autism. You can read her blog here.