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Prozac Might Ease Repetitive Behaviors in Some Adults With Autism
Date:12/2/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The antidepressant Prozac may help ease repetitive behaviors in some adults with autism, a new study indicates.

Researchers randomly assigned 37 adults with autism to take either Prozac (fluoxetine) or a placebo for 12 weeks. The study participants had difficulties with repetitive behaviors, such as arm flapping, as well as issues with restricted interests or agitation when their routines were disrupted, explained senior study author Dr. Eric Hollander, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of the Autism and Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

After three months, 50 percent of the group receiving fluoxetine showed a reduction in repetitive behaviors as assessed using a scale that measures obsessive-compulsive symptoms compared to 8 percent in the placebo group. In addition, 35 percent on fluoxetine showed an overall improvement in their autism symptoms compared to none in the placebo group.

"What is unique about this study is that there have been very few studies on adults with autism -- most of the work has been done on children," Hollander said. "The second important point is that we stratified the population. We wanted to get people who had a lot of repetitive behaviors and had a lot of room for improvement."

The study, which was funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is published online Dec. 2 in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder characterized by problems with social interaction, communication and restricted interests and behaviors. That includes repetitive behaviors; having an obsessive interest in one topic; having a need to stick to a specific ritual or routine; and experiencing distress or agitation when that routine gets disrupted.

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