A new analysis is calling into question the merits of antidepressants for those with autism after finding that studies supporting use of the drugs are far more likely than others to be published.
The report released online Monday in the journal Pediatrics is based on an analysis of 10 studies looking at the use of antidepressants like Prozac, Luvox and Celexa in people with autism.
Half of the studies examined were published in research journals while the other half were completed but never disseminated publicly.
Overall, the research team from the University of Michigan and Yale University found that all of the published studies indicated that the medications had benefits for those with autism, while just one of the unpublished studies came to that conclusion.
“There was significant evidence of publication bias in all analyses,” the researchers wrote. “After adjusting for publication bias in the literature, the effect of SRI medications in ASD was no longer significant.”
Antidepressants are often prescribed to individuals with autism in order to mitigate repetitive behaviors like hoarding, compulsive touching or self-injury. However, the analysis suggests that the benefits of such medications may be overstated since many studies remain unpublished.
“Further research is needed to find effective treatments for children with ASDs,” the researchers wrote. “Identifying effective treatments for these patients will be difficult if partial and selective publication of clinical trials persists.”