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Antipsychotic Drug Controls Some Symptoms in Autism Disorder

Risperidone, a drug used to control schizophrenia symptoms, may also help treat behaviors found in autism spectrum disorder, according to a new review of studies.//

The reviewers looked at three randomized, placebo-controlled studies of risperidone (Risperdal) involving 211 participants, including 31 adults.

“[We found] that risperidone may be beneficial for various aspects of autism including irritability, repetition and hyperactivity,” said researchers led by Dr. Ora Jesner of the University of Bristol, in England. But the drug’s benefits may be offset by its side effects, with weight gain the most prominent.

Often diagnosed within the first three years of life, autism spectrum disorder leads to difficulties with social relationships, language and communication skills. Symptoms include withdrawal from social interactions, irritability, problems communicating and repetitive behaviors.

It is known as a “spectrum” disorder because there is a wide variation in how it affects individuals. Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as many as 1.5 million Americans may have some form of the disorder.

“Autism spectrum disorder affects many families worldwide,” Jesner said. “At present many of the interventions available are not evidence-based.” He said he and co-author Dr. Mehrnoosh Aref-Adib “wanted to analyze the evidence for one important antipsychotic [drug] used for the condition.”

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

Because of the small number of studies, wide range of different scales used to assess outcomes and sizes of the trials themselves, the research
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