A doctor nationally known for treating autism with a drug sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders has been suspended from practicing medicine in his home state of Maryland after state officials determined that he is putting children at risk.
Dr. Mark Geier allegedly misrepresented his credentials, misdiagnosed children and urged parents to approve risky treatments without fully informing them of the potential dangers, according to the Maryland Board of Physicians.
The board's order states that Geier "endangers autistic children and exploits their parents by administering to the children a treatment protocol that has a known substantial risk of serious harm and which is neither consistent with evidence-based medicine nor generally accepted in the relevant scientific community."
Geier told the Chicago Tribune in 2009 that he had treated hundreds of children with a testosterone suppressant called Lupron, which he called a "miracle drug." But a Tribune investigation exposed the treatment as a potentially dangerous therapy based on junk science and promoted by a physician not board-certified in any specialty relevant to autism or the use of hormone-disrupting drugs.
According to the Maryland Board of Physicians, Geier has licenses in 10 states. In Maryland, he's the president of Genetic Center of America, which has offices in Rockville and Owings Mills. In Maryland, the offices are called Genetic Consultants of Maryland, which he told the board offers genetic counseling to high-risk obstetric patients, evaluation of adults at risk for cancer and "genetic workups" of children with neuro-developmental disorders.
He also practices under the name ASD Centers LLC, and in 2006, the board said, he founded the Institute of Chronic Illness with his son, which offers the disputed autism treatment.
Geier is prominent in the world of alternative treatments for autism. His ASD Centers advertise "new hope for autism," and he has offices around the country.
The Maryland board found that in six of nine cases it reviewed, Geier incorrectly diagnosed children with autism with "precocious puberty" — the extraordinarily early onset of puberty — and prescribed Lupron, which is sometimes covered by insurance to treat that rare condition.
In some cases, according to the board, Geier diagnosed the children with precocious puberty and prescribed drug protocols without examining them or conducting proper tests. Some of the children Geier diagnosed were too old to have the condition.
Geier is a genetic counselor, but according to the Maryland board order, he has falsely claimed to be a board-certified geneticist and epidemiologist.
Geier, who is not allowed to practice in Maryland while the case is pending, referred questions to attorney Joseph A. Schwartz III. At the root of the case, Schwartz said, was a "bona fide dispute over therapy" rather than a doctor who posed an immediate threat to patients.
"If you read the [order], you say, 'Holy God, this is awful.' But if it were so awful, they should have an injured child, and they don't," Schwartz said.
"It's just like shadow-boxing with allegations that sound awful, but when you delve into the facts of them, you say, 'What's the big deal here?'"
Experts have long doubted the scientific basis for Geier's claims and treatments. In 2009, some two dozen prominent endocrinologists dismissed his Lupron protocol in a paper published online in the journal Pediatrics.
The medical board also noted that Geier's son, David, who is not a medical doctor but serves as executive director of ASD Centers, examined and diagnosed a 10-year-old boy in May 2008.
Gov. Martin O'Malley appointed David Geier in 2009 to the state's Commission on Autism as a "diagnostician," a decision state officials are now reviewing. David Paulson, a spokesman for the state health department, said David Geier declined Wednesday to resign from the position.
Baltimore Sun reporter Meredith Cohn contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun