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Evidence Weak to Support Many Medications for Autism: Study
Date:4/4/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- Little evidence supports the use of most medications for treating autism in children, with the exception of the anti-psychotic drugs risperidone and aripiprazole that have shown success in controlling severely disruptive, hyperactive and repetitive behaviors, a new study shows.

However, anti-psychotics can have significant side effects, including substantial weight gain, sedation and tremors or rigidity, and should only be used when absolutely necessary, the researchers added.

"The medications are efficacious, but they have significant side effects that should limit their use to patients with severe impairment or at risk of injury," said study author Melissa McPheeters, co-director of the Vanderbilt Evidence-Based Practice Center in Nashville.

Other medications sometimes prescribed for children with autism -- including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat repetitive behaviors and stimulants used to treat hyperactivity and impulsive behavior -- have scant evidence supporting their use, according to the study. It was published online April 4 in the journal Pediatrics.

A randomized, controlled trial on SSRIs showed no benefit in controlling repetitive behaviors, according to the study. And while one study did show that stimulants may help with hyperactivity, far more research is needed.

A second study in the same issue of the journal analyzed seven randomized controlled trials on secretin, which is used to treat peptic ulcers, and the study found no benefit in treating autism symptoms and that it wasn't even worth further study. (Animals studies have showed secretin affects the central nervous system, which sparked the interest in using the drug for children with autism, but those hopes have not been borne out, the researchers said.)

A third study in the journal looked at 34 studies on behav
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