December 18, 2009 | 10:30 am, LA Times
About 1 in 110 U.S. children suffers from autism spectrum disorders, a broad classification that includes autism, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disabilities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The data, which were released on a provisional basis in October, coincide well with other estimates of autism prevalence, including a report in the journal Pediatrics that same month.
The new data represent a 50% increase from two years ago, when the agency estimated the prevalence of the disorder at about 1 in 150 children. At least some of the increase comes from better diagnosis of the disorder, but some apparently also comes from a complex mix of genetic and environmental factors — although it is not clear what those factors might be. The new study did not investigate potential causes of the disorder, said lead author Catherine Rice, a behavioral health scientist at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Other CDC groups are looking at potential causes, she said.
The study focused on children who were 8 years old in 2006, the most recent year for which data were available, because other studies have shown that most cases of autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed by that age. The researchers studied case records of children at 11 sites on the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which covers about 8% of U.S. children. Case records were reviewed to ensure that appropriate diagnostic criteria for the disorders were met, but the children were not studied directly.
The researchers found that 2,757 of 307,790 8-year-olds in the sites had an autism spectrum disorder, an overall prevalence of 9 per 1,000. Rates at individual sites ranged from a low of 4.2 per 1,000 in Florida to a high of 12.1 in Arizona and Missouri. Rice said it is likely the low rates represent an underreporting, but she had no explanation for the states with the highest rates.
Boys were about 4.5 times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with the disorder, which matches well with earlier studies that found about 80% of victims are male. That means that about 1 in 70 boys suffers from the disorder, compared with about 1 in 315 girls. The average age of diagnosis was 4.5, about five months earlier than had been the case in 2002.
– Thomas H. Maugh II
Advisers on Vaccines Often Have Conflicts, Report Says
You Don’t Say, My Oh My!
By GARDINER HARRIS, December 18, 2009
WASHINGTON – A new report finds that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a poor job of screening medical experts for financial conflicts when it hired them to advise the agency on vaccine safety, officials said Thursday.
Most of the experts who served on advisory panels in 2007 to evaluate vaccines for flu and cervical cancer had potential conflicts that were never resolved, the report said. Some were legally barred from considering the issues but did so anyway.
In the report, expected to be released Friday, Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, found that the centers failed nearly every time to ensure that the experts adequately filled out forms confirming they were not being paid by companies with an interest in their decisions.
The report found that 64 percent of the advisers had potential conflicts of interest that were never identified or were left unresolved by the centers. Thirteen percent failed to have an appropriate conflicts form on file at the agency at all, which should have barred their participation in the meetings entirely, Mr. Levinson found. And 3 percent voted on matters that ethics officers had already barred them from considering.
The inspector general recommended that the centers do a far better job of screening. In a reply, the agency’s new director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, agreed.
“Since the period covered in this review, C.D.C. has strengthened the financial disclosures and conflict-of-interest process by instituting improved business processes and realigning responsibilities and oversight,” Dr. Frieden wrote.
As numerous medicines have been pulled from the market in recent years, worries have grown that experts may be recommending medical products – even ones they know to be unsafe – in part because manufacturers are paying them.
As a result, government agencies, medical societies and medical journals have become increasingly insistent that experts disclose potential conflicts. And while the experts invariably insist that they have done so, government audits routinely find large gaps between these disclosures and the experts’ actual income from consulting.
Congress tightened the rules on outside consulting after similar conflicts were found among members of advisory panels to the Food and Drug Administration. But little attention has been paid to the potential conflicts of advisers to the C.D.C., even though that agency’s committees have significant influence over what vaccines are sold in the United States, what tests are performed to detect cancer and how coal miners are protected.
Most of the advisers identified by Mr. Levinson had either a job or a grant from a company or other entity whose interests were affected by the committees’ discussions, and a considerable number also owned stock in such companies, the report said.
Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who said she had long been a supporter of the C.D.C., said: “That is why I am so concerned about this report issued by the inspector general exposing serious ethics violations within the C.D.C. All members of the federal advisory committees, whose recommendations direct federal policy, should be without conflict of interest.”
List of Excuses for Recent Autism Rate Increase – Add Your Own
Posted Oct 06 2009 10:00pm
|The incidence of autism spectrum disorder in eight-year-olds in the U.S. has risen by 50% since 2007, from one in 150 to one in 100, according to a CDC report that will be released later this year. However, the higher rate might not mean that more U.S. children have autism spectrum disorder, but instead that physicians’ ability to detect the disorder is improving, according to Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. California Healthline, October 5, 2009
It was completely predictable.
As soon as word began to circulate that studies announcing an increase in autism diagnoses from 1 in 150 to 1 in 100 or is it 1 in 91 you had to know that the usual excuses would be trotted out so that health authorities could continue to deny that there actually is an autism epidemic.
1. The 1994 DSM definition changes are STILL being used to explain a 50% increase in autism rates between 2007 and 2009.
2. Increased social awareness.
3. Alleged availability of autism services. Autism diagnoses provided so that patient can obtain autism services.
4. Greater ability to detect autism. Thank you Dr. Tom Insel.
If anyone has any other excuses being used to deny that autism is really increasing despite a 50% increase in two years feel free to offer them for this list. Maybe it is time to stop conducting such surveys if the people who actually provide the surveys and studies do not take them seriously.
Parents are reporting cases of autism at double the rate of the last U.S. government survey in 2003, prompting calls for more research and spawning doubts about the true number of children affected.
One in every 91 American children has been diagnosed with autism.
Researchers estimate that now 1.1 percent, or 1 in 91 children, were told they had a disorder on the autism spectrum, according to a parent survey on the health of more than 78,000 children included in the National Survey of Children’s Health. The last survey, conducted in 2003, estimated just 0.57 percent of children had autism.
But whether a change in diagnosis criteria or some factor in the children’s environment, or a combination of the two, led to the jump in reported cases remains unclear.
“This [survey] means that there are a whole lot of families struggling with this and not enough resources,” said Rita Sheffler, a mother of a child with autism and a member of the National Autism Association. “We need more funding and research and need it right away. If children don’t receive appropriate treatments [at a young age], there aren’t enough facilities for adults and society is not prepared if they do not find meaningful treatments.”