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Dr. Mark Geier

Dr. Mark Geier is seen after his first hearing in front of the Maryland Board of Physicians in Baltimore on May 11, 2011. Photo by Jed Kirschbaum of the Baltimore Sun/MCT

An autism doctor who operates clinics in St. Peters and Springfield, Ill., has been suspended in two states for alleged mistreatment of children.

Dr. Mark Geier has been accused of misdiagnosing children with early puberty and treating them with high doses of Lupron, a drug used to suppress the hormone testosterone.

Geier operates autism treatment clinics called ASD Centers in at least eight states. Maryland, his home base, suspended his license in April. Washington state followed a month later.

A doctor who is disciplined in another state is also subject to discipline in Missouri and Illinois. A spokesman for the Missouri healing arts board would not confirm an investigation of Geier, whose license is active.

A preliminary hearing on Geier's Illinois license is set for Aug. 22 in Chicago.

Geier referred questions to his Maryland lawyer, Jay Schwartz, who said he is under a gag order awaiting a ruling in an appeal of the Maryland suspension.

"I'm expecting good news for Dr. Geier," Schwartz said.

It's unclear if Geier has treated patients in the Missouri or Illinois clinics.

In its ruling, the Maryland State Board of Physicians outlined the case of a 9-year-old Illinois boy who apparently received a Lupron prescription from Geier over the phone.

Other cases cited in the Maryland review include children who were given Lupron despite having normal levels of testosterone and being too old to be candidates for early puberty. The drug can cost $5,000 to $6,000 a month and is typically prescribed to men with advanced prostate cancer and women with endometriosis or fibroids.

The drug is also approved in rare cases of precocious puberty in girls younger than 8 and boys younger than 9. The drug's long-term effects on children's fertility has not been studied and it is not approved for the treatment of autism.

Dr. John Constantino, a psychiatry professor and leading autism researcher at Washington University, said Geier "understands the tools of science but has applied them in questionable ways" to justify specific treatments.

"There is currently no scientific evidence to support the clinical use of Lupron to treat autism in anything other than carefully conducted research trials," Constantino said.

Geier has written that mercury in childhood vaccines can exacerbate testosterone levels in children with autism and cause symptoms of aggression. He prescribes Lupron to reduce their testosterone levels. His research has been criticized by the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The organizations have concluded there is no link between vaccines and autism based on multiple studies.

The Maryland board wrote that Geier endangers children and exploits parents with his "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."

In an opinion piece published in the Baltimore Sun last month, Geier wrote that he has treated hundreds of children with Lupron.

"I understand that not everyone agrees with some of what our research has concluded," Geier wrote. "I am honored that my work has resulted in a successful therapy for many families. All that I ask is to be permitted to continue my work and assist children and their parents in the quest to find answers."

Sharon Moeller of Missouri Families for Effective Autism Treatment, which supports behavioral, speech and occupational therapies, said she worries that parents desperate to help their children can be misled.

"We do our best to help educate our parents on what are considered effective treatments and what aren't," Moeller said. "To tell families that you are the only person on the planet who has the one cure-all for something that has been boggling science for the last 50 years, I think it's irresponsible and I think it's dangerous."

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