"Autism Specialist" Blasted by
Omnibus Special Master
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
A report by a Special Master of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims suggests that Jeffrey Bradstreet, M.D., of Melbourne, Florida, habitually misdiagnoses and mistreats autistic children . The 293-page report dissects Bradstreet's management of Colten Snyder, whose family petitioned the court for compensation based on their belief that vaccines caused the boy to develop autism. The court ruled that no such connection exists. This article describes how Special Master Denise K. Vowell concluded that Bradstreet had improperly diagnosed and treated Colten for "mercury toxicity."
Bradstreet founded and is clinical program director of the International Child Development Resource Center (ICDRC) in Melbourne, Florida. He operates a second office in Arizona, where he licensed to practice homeopathy. He is also president of Creation's Own, a corporation he formed in 1996 that sells dietary supplement products. The Care Corp Web sites states:
Our focus is evaluating and treating patients with autism spectrum disorders, PDD, and related neurological and developmental disorders. We assess the underlying medical problems most commonly seen in children with autism through the use of measured biomarkers .
Bradstreet's curriculum vitae states that he graduated form the University of Florida College of Medicine in 1979, had two years of residency training in obstetrics and gynecology, and then had an additional training in aerospace medicine in 1981 . He considers himself to be a family physician who limits his practice as noted above. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians but is not board certified in any specialty. He advocates a "biomedical" approach to autism that is said to correct "biochemical imbalances" "and provide "detoxification." He says that the IRDRC has records on about 4,000 patients treated at their facility .
More than 5,000 families who claim that vaccines caused their children to become autistic are seeking compensation through the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Bradstreet is treating many of these children and also offered expert testimony in the proceedings. In February 2008, three Special Masters concluded that no credible evidence exists that vaccines can combine to to cause autism . The decisions completely debunked this notion and implied that doctors who base their treatments on them are unscientific and unethical. The decisions came in three cases selected to "test" how similar cases should be handled. One of the children was Colten Snyder, whom Bradstreet began treating in 1999. After stating that Colten's medical records with Bradstreet encompassed over 650 pages, Special Master Vowell noted:
Bradstreet’s treatments included a wide variety of dietary supplements, secretin infusions, immunoglobulin therapy, chelation, glutathione, and prednilisone. He ordered numerous laboratory tests, many of which were non-standard tests not approved by the FDA, or ones performed outside the U.S. [1:231]
Vowell then gave the following diagnosis list, which she said was "not exhaustive":
[Bradstreet] began with a diagnosis of autism, yeast overgrowth, and a fungal infection in July, 1999. Subsequent diagnoses included autoimmune encephalopathy; autoimmune disease not elsewhere classified and immune mechanism disease not elsewhere classified); allergic gastroenteritis and autoimmune disease; unspecified urticaria, unspecified encephalopathy, and allergic gastroenteritis; encephalopathy unspecified, unspecified disorder of immune mechanism, gastroenteritis, and colitis; disturbance of sulphur-bearing amino acid metabolism, unspecified disorder of immune mechanism, unspecified disorder of metabolism, and encephalopathy unspecified; the same diagnoses in July, 2004, with the addition of “rule out epilepsy, unspecified”; autoimmune disease not elsewhere classified, unspecified disorder of metabolism, unspecified disorder of immune mechanism, and encephalopathy not elsewhere classified; and toxic effect of mercury and its compounds, autoimmune disease not elsewhere classified, and unspecified disorder of immune mechanism [1:232]. [Underlining added]
Creative Insurance Coding?
I find it curious that more than a dozen of the above "diagnoses" are either "unspecified" or "not elsewhere classified." Bradstreet testified that the recorded diagnoses varied, depending on the nature of the problem being treated at that particular time. It appears to me that Bradstreet decides which of his nonstandard theories to apply and records diagnoses that embody them. Or perhaps these diagnoses are provided in an attempt to help families obtain reimbursement for nonstandard treatments that insurance companies would otherwise not cover. It would be interesting to know what percentage of children treated at ICRDC get similarly long lists of vague diagnoses. The Talk about Curing Autism Web site includes at least six of the above diagnoses in its list of "commonly used ICD9 codes for the co-morbid disorders autistic children may have." 
Bradstreet's management of Colten's alleged "toxic effect of mercury" is particularly telling. Mercury poisoning is a medically defined condition with specific symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, but Bradstreet and others like him seem perfectly happy to make the diagnosis without any supporting history, symptoms, physical findings, or laboratory tests.
Vowell's report tore Bradstreet's "mercury toxicity" activities to shreds:
- Colten’s first mercury test was a hair test, conducted on April 29, 2000. . . . The April 29, 2000 hair test for mercury demonstrated a low level of mercury in Colten’s hair, but one within the reference range of normal for the laboratory, and one well below the 90th percentile for U.S. children ages six to eight [1:240]
- Colten’s first urine test for mercury exposure was a post-provocation challenge test conducted on July 21, 2000. Prior to collecting the urine, Colten was administered 100 mg of DMSA, a chelating agent. The results were reported by Doctor’s Data laboratory as “very elevated,” at 11 µg/g creatinine. . . . However, the reference ranges for this test were based on subjects who were not chelated before measurement of their urinary mercury. Although the Doctor’s Data laboratory reported Colten’s results as “very elevated,” applying the correct reference range placed Colten’s post-chelation mercury level in the range of normal pre-chelation [1:240-241].
- A post-chelation urine sample, taken on April 24, 2006, reported that any mercury present was below the detection limit. Another post-chelation urine sample, taken on June 26, 2008, was reported by another laboratory as well below the reference range for mercury. Another post-chelation urine sample, taken on September 25, 2006, found no detectable mercury [1:241].
- Colten’s blood mercury levels were tested on five occasions, all with findings in the normal range. [September 21, 2000, December 10, 2004, April 29, 2005, and June 26 and December 11, 2006] [1:241]
- No good data demonstrates that chelation therapy works to treat autism. Nevertheless, approximately 30-40% of Bradstreet’s patients were chelated during his treatment of them, a figure that remained consistent over the five years preceding the hearing [1:249].
- In spite of the fact that none of Colten’s tests for mercury was high, and Colten responded poorly to chelation, Bradstreet ordered numerous rounds of chelation therapy [1:249].
- Bradstreet conceded that Colten did not respond well to chelation. The medical records, including reports from Mrs. Snyder, reflected that Colten did poorly after every round of chelation therapy . . . . The more disturbing question is why chelation was performed at all, in view of the normal levels of mercury found in the hair, blood, and urine, its apparent lack of efficacy in treating Colten’s symptoms, and the adverse side effects it apparently caused [1:251].
Rarely has a court ruling described a health-related scam more thoroughly. Having concluded—without justification—that mercury toxicity is a causative factor in autism, Bradstreet and his allies run phony provoked tests to look for it. But even when the tests are negative, they often treat it—with methods that are not even the appropriate ones for the conditions they claim to diagnose .
- Vowell DK. Decision. Snyder v Secretary, Dept of Health and Human Services, U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Office of Special Masters, Case No. 01-162V, filed Feb 12, 2009.
- Creation's Own home page, accessed March 10, 2009.
- Bradstreet J. Curriculum vita for James Jeffrey Bradstreet, MD, MD(H), FAACP, updated January, 2008.
- Bradstreet J. Simplified evaluation and treatment of autism using biomarker directed algorithms. Undated, probably 2008. ICDRC Web site, accessed March 10, 2009.
- Barrett S. Omnibus court rules against autism-vaccine link. Autism Watch, Feb 14, 2009.
- Autism & Insurance: Common co-morbid disorder diagnosis codes ICD9, TACA Web site, accessed March 14, 2009.
- Barrett S. Baratz RS. Chelation therapy and insurance fraud. Quackwatch, Jan 24, 2009.
This article was revised on March 15, 2009.