Secretin is a hormone found in the pancreas, liver, upper intestinal tract, and brain. Secretin received a great deal of media attention after the remarkable story of Victoria and Gary Beck's son.
In 1996, Parker Beck was brought to the University of Maryland Medical Facility to undergo an endoscopy. A few days after the test, something completely unexpected happened. Parker's diarrhea disappeared and he began sleeping through the night for the first time in two years. Ten days after the procedure, Parker's therapist called Victoria downstairs to show her Parker reciting flashcards as quickly as she could hold them up. Parker had been totally non-verbal. He hadn't talked for two years. For Victoria and Gary, it was nothing short of a miracle. Their little boy was back, talking and listening.
After much investigation, they discovered that Parker had been given a small amount of a hormone called secretin. The Beck's felt certain this was the answer they had been waiting for.
Hundreds of parents have observed improvements in their children diagnosed with following an infusion of secretin. And many parents have also given anecdotal reports of the benefits of administering secretin to their children transdermally (i.e., through the skin).
With respect to research, there have been several one-dose safety studies on secretin, and these studies have found no differences between the experimental (secretin) and control groups. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires single-dose safety studies to be performed first, before efficacy trials are undertaken.
There has been only one Phase II efficacy study; and these results showed significant improvements as a result of secretin, as compared to a control group. This multi-center, multi-dose study was completed in 2001 and the findings were presented at the national Autism Society of America conference in July, 2001 (San Diego). Additionally, studies in 2002 have shown secretin to be present in the amygdala, hippocampus and cerebellum- three areas of the brain known to be defective in autism. Secretin, according to the FDA regulations, is being evaluated in a series of large-scale studies at five major medical centers.
Because its safety and efficacy have not been adequately tested for treating autism, the U.S. National Institutes of Health does not currently have a formal position on the therapeutic use of secretin for the treatment of autism.