Support Lacking For Drugs As Autism Treatment
While medication is often used to treat children with autism, “strikingly little evidence” exists to support the approach, researchers said Monday.
That’s the conclusion of an analysis published online in the journal Pediatrics looking at 10-years worth of studies on the effectiveness of antipsychotics and other drugs in treating children with autism.
“Most of the medical interventions that are currently being applied for children with ASDs have insufficient strength of evidence to evaluate either their potential benefit or adverse effects,” wrote researchers from Vanderbilt University.
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The strongest evidence to support medication for use with kids who have autism comes from studies funded by pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit, the review found.
Nonetheless, two drugs did stand out in the analysis. Studies suggest that risperidone, sold as Risperdal, and aripiprazole, sold as Abilify, both help to treat challenging behaviors. However, the drugs carried significant side effects — such as weight gain and drowsiness — making them useful to only those with the most extreme symptoms.
Meanwhile, in companion articles also published Monday in Pediatrics, the Vanderbilt team analyzed two other approaches for treating autism. A review of intensive early intervention models found multiple methods to be promising — including the Early Start Denver Model and the UCLA/Lovaas approach — but said there’s not yet enough evidence to determine which is most beneficial to particular children. And, a look at the the use of secretin to treat autism-related gastrointestinal issues suggests the approach is ineffective and does not warrant further research.