Secretin is a hormone naturally present in the body. Secretin manufactured for medical purposes derives from pigs and has been used for the last thirty years to diagnose digestive problems. Its use as a treatment against autism is only very recent, in 1996, an American boy, called Parker Beck, was given secretin in order to assess the cause of his intestinal problems, soon after his mother noticed that he started using words, his gastrointestinal symptoms disappeared and his eye contact improved. The demand for secretin in America rocketed after Mrs Beck appeared on a television show in 1998 and as a result the stocks of the American supplier Ferring were sold out within weeks. Due to the shortage of porcine secretin, some laboratories began manufacturing a synthetic human version and Repligen, another American company, acquired the patent in February 2001. Repligen completed a Phase 2 clinical trial two months later, which evaluated three doses of secretin or a placebo in 126 autistic children, 3 to 6 years of age. Improvement in social function, overall symptom and an increase in receptive language were reported in 64 children.

What role does Secretin play?

Secretin is involved in a number of functions of the body, its primary role is to stimulate the pancreas to secrete digestive fluids that are rich in bicarbonate and neutralise the acids from the stomach as they pass into the small intestine. It also stimulates the stomach to produce an enzyme called pepsin, which helps break down proteins. According to Dr. Rimland, from the Autism Research Institute in America, secretin may also be involved in many brain activities including stimulating and utilising the neurotransmitter serotonin. There are secretin receptors in many places in the central nervous system, including the eyes.” It is not certain whether secretin may improve the symptoms of autism because of its action on the pancreas or on the brain, however for some there is a link between gastrointestinal and brain functions. According to Paul Shattock, from the Autism Research Unit, proteins not digested properly in the stomach of autistic children will leak into the bloodstream and eventually go to the brain.

How to take Secretin

Secretin is usually given intravenously, the solution is infused over a period of one to two minutes. In America, a few children have also received secretin transdermally (through the skin). In England it is possible to obtain secretin as a homeopathic remedy.

Transdermal secretin:
Victoria Beck was introduced to Dr David Gregg who used an agent called DMSO to carry secretin through the skin and into the blood stream. This process is less intrusive than injecting secretin, it consists of wetting the skin with an agent called DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), then applying some secretin powder and adding more DMSO over the top. DMSO is said to have the ability to pass cell membranes, it is also believed to reduce pain and inflammation. According to Dr Gregg, thanks to the transdermal approach, secretin can be applied more frequently in lower doses and it is easier to adjust the application rate in response to observed reactions. However the only human use for which DMSO has been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Agency) in America, is for interstitial cystitis.

Other methods for administering secretin transdermally include gels, lotions, patches, tablets, and suppositories. For more information visit the following websites:
- http://www.krysalis-sparx.com/autism.htm – Details by Dr Gregg
- http://www.autism-alabama.org/secretin/transdermal.htm – Information from Victoria Beck.

The Homeopathic version of secretin:
Due to the shortage and expensive cost of secretin (from £200 per injection) the Autism Independent UK (formerly the Society For The Autistically Handicapped) imported the porcine secretin into the UK where a homeopathic version was made by Ainsworths Homeopathic Pharmacy in London. It is considered safe as the original preparation is diluted many times leaving no trace of the original starting material at the end. It is available in pills or liquid form (around £7 for the pills and £19 for the drops) and is easy to obtain. Some therapists argue that it does not the same properties as the original secretin. A study by Robinson TW in Homeopathic Secretin in autism: a clinical pilot study in the British Homeopathic Journal (2001 Apr;90), revealed changes and some improvements that were not recordable on the scoring system necessitating the need for further research.

What side effects can be noticed after taking Secretin?

Some parents claim that the treatment helps improve eye contact, awareness, sociability, speech and sleep patterns, attention span and finally leads to an increased capacity to learn. Based on these experiences secretin has been administered to thousands of children, mainly in America. However the reason for these perceived effects is unclear and their duration unknown. It is also not yet clear which categories of autistic patients may benefit most. It should not be assumed that, as secretin is a naturally occurring substance, its use is automatically safe. Although Repligen evaluated the safety of secretin in their recent study (April 2001) and stated There were no serious adverse events in either the secretin or placebo-treated groups., there is still a lack of research regarding secretin’s safety for repeated administration or consistent data about dosage and side effects and since secretin has only recently been used for the treatment of autism long term side effects are unknown. Adverse affects such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, gastrointestinal problems have been experienced.

Billy Tommey was the first British child to take secretin. Billy's parents publish a quarterly magazine, "The Autism File" which focuses on causes and treatments of autism and has articles on secretin. To subscribe or view some of the articles visit the website www.autismfile.co.uk


Despite the caution of the health authorities there has been a huge interest in this drug from parents of autistic children. Research into secretin therapy is still in its very early days, several trials have been carried out with mixed results.

- Lightdale JR, Hayer C, Duer A Effects of intravenous secretin on language and behavior of children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms: a single-blinded, open-label pilot study.: Pediatrics 2001 Nov;108(5):E90
"The results of our pilot study indicate that intravenous secretin had no effects in a 5-week period on the language and behavior of 20 children with autism and gastrointestinal symptoms."

- Lamson DW, Plaza SM. Transdermal secretin for autism - a case report. Altern Med Rev 2001 Jun;6(3):311-313. "Secretin hormone given daily in transdermal cream was associated with marked and sustained developmental progress in an aphasic two-and-a-half year old child diagnosed with autism."

- Roberts W, Weaver L, Brian J, Repeated doses of porcine secretin in the treatment of autism: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatrics 2001 May 107(5):E71
"No evidence is provided for the efficacy of repeated doses of porcine secretin in the treatment of children with autism."

- Corbett B, Khan K, Czapansky-Beilman D A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study investigating the effect of porcine secretin in children with autism. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 2001 Jun;40(6):327-31
"In general, the autistic children did not demonstrate the improvements described in the initial retrospective report."

- Coniglio SJ, Lewis JD, Lang C. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of single-dose intravenous secretin as a treatment for children with autism. J Pediatr 2001 May;138(5):649-655.
"A single dose of intravenous secretin does not appear to have significant effects on either parents' perception of autistic behaviors or language skills at 6 weeks after injection. Transient, marginally significant improvements in autistic behaviors may occur in some children."

- Dunn-Geier J, Ho HH, Auersperg E. Effect of secretin on children with autism: a randomized controlled trial Dev Med Child Neurol 2000 Dec;42(12):796-802
"This study showed no significant effects of secretin on children with autism."

- Chez MG, Buchanan CP, Bagan BT. Secretin and autism: a two-part clinical investigation. J Autism Dev Disord 2000 Apr;30(2):87-94.
"Results of both inquiries indicate that although treatment with secretin was reported to cause transient changes in speech and behavior in some children, overall it produced few clinically meaningful changes when compared to children given placebo injections."


Due to the lack of research it may be difficult to find a doctor who is willing to administer secretin, however it is strongly advised that secretin should be administered under the supervision of a doctor, besides companies selling secretin will only sell it upon prescription.

Ainsworths Homeopathic Pharmacy
36 New Cavendish Street
London W1M 7LH
Tel: 020 7935 5330

The British Homeopathic Association
15 Clerkenwell Close
London EC1R OAA
Tel: 020 7566 7800

The National Autistic Society (NAS)
393 City Road
London EC1V 1NG
Tel: 020 7833 2299

The Autism Research Unit
School of Health Sciences
University of Sunderland
Sunderland SR2 7EE
Tel: 0191 510 8922

Autism Independent
199-201 Blandford Ave
Northants NN16 9AT
Tel: 01536 523274

Secretin users UK. (www.greenelk.co.uk/~suu). Information on doctors who administer secretin in the UK

The Autism Research Institute (ARI)
4182 Adams Avenue
San Diego
CA 92116
Tel: (001) 619 281 7165

SecretinOnline.com is an organisation founded by parents of autistic children, who, helped by medical professionals, try to locate companies selling secretin. They only accept orders from doctors. Their website is: http://www.secretinonline.com

RepliGen Corporation
117 Fourth Ave
MA 02494
Tel: (001) 800 622 2259


- Beck V.& G., Rimland B. (1998). Unlocking the Potential of secretin Information and Questions for Parents and Physicians Who Want to Learn More About Secretin as its Use is Explored in Autism and Other Disorders. Autism Research Institute.

- Horvath, K., Stefanatos, G., Sokolski, K. N., Wachtel, R., Nabors L., & Tildon, J. T. (1998) Improved social and language skills after secretin administration in patients with autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of the Association for Academic Minority Physicians, 9, 9-15.

- Shattock P., Kennedy A., Rowell F., Berney TP. (1990) Role of Neuropeptides in Autism and their Relationships with Classical Neurotransmitters. Brain Dysfunction 3 (5) 328-345.

- Shattock P., Lowdon G. (1991) Proteins, Peptides and Autism. Part 2: Implications for the Education and Care of People with Autism. Brain Dysfunction 4 (6) 323-334.

- Shattock P., Savery D. (1996) Urinary Profiles of People with Autism: possible implications and relevance to other research. Proceedings from conference Therapeutic Intervention in Autism: perspectives from research and practice held at the University of Durham April 1996. The Autism Research Unit and NAS, 309-326.

- Reichelt KL., Hole K., Hamberger A., Saelid G., Edminson P.D., Braestrup C.B., Lingjaerde O,. Ledaal P., Orbeck H. (1981) Biologically Active Peptide Containing Fractions in Schizophrenia and Childhood Autism. Adv. Biochem. Psychopharmacol. 28: 627-6 43.

- Babarczy, E., Szabo, G., & Telegdy, G. (1995). Effects of secretin on acute and chronic effects of morphine. Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior, 51, 469-472.

- Charlton, C. G. (1983). Secretin modulation of behavioral and physiological functions in the rat. Peptides, 4(5), 739-742.

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