Tag Archives: Anti Depressants

Are Benefits Of Antidepressants For Autism Overstated?

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Main Category: Autism
Article Date: 24 Apr 2012 – 0:00 PDT

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With autism on the rise and an increasing concern for parents, doctors have searched for ways to treat the problem. Repetitive and other behavioral traits associated with the syndrome can hold children back in school and put stress on family life. It seems, however, that using anti-depressants is not necessarily the best solution.

Analysis of five published articles and five unpublished completed trials is showing that serotonin receptor inhibitors (SRIs), generally used as anti depressants, have been over rated in terms of treating autism. The article, “Pharmacologic Treatment of Repetitive Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence of Publication Bias”, is published by the The American Academy of Pediatrics.

The researchers used meta-analysis to discover that studies with positive results for treating autism with serotonin receptor inhibitors are more likely to be published than those showing negative or neutral results. All of the five published articles had positive results, whereas only one of the unpublished showed anti-depressants as affective, basically meaning the usefulness of the SRIs has been over estimated.

This creates a situation where doctors reach for the prescription book without having all the facts, and autism patients maybe taking drugs that are sometimes considered addictive, without any proven benefit. The studies that did show positive results showed only minor improvements, and the SRIs were far from the silver bullet.

Webmd quotes researcher Melisa Carrasco, PhD, a recent graduate of the neuroscience program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor:

“When we realized there were as many unpublished studies with data as there were published studies providing data, it was definitely a little frustrating … It makes you wonder what data is not available and how it could help us better treat kids.”

In total, the five studies with positive results that were published had little over twenty percent success rate in reducing repetitive behaviors. Researchers say that they believe many journals are reluctant to publish studies showing drugs do not work, moreover in the case of autism, which is such a hot-button issue. The results look even worse when the unpublished studies are taken into account, dropping to an average of only twelve percent. It is little beyond the margin of error say researchers, who state that the benefits of taking the SRIs maybe negligible.

Carrasco continues that :

“It definitely brings up a huge problem in this field. There’s really no umbrella organization that’s overseeing that everybody who gets funding to do these studies, that they go ahead and then report it publicly. This is not rigorously enforced. It makes you wonder if the reason why they didn’t get published is because they had negative results.”

While it’s true that doctors might give SRIs for other symptoms, such as preventing anxiety, there is definitely a lack of definitive proof that anti-depressants really help those with autism.

Written by Rupert Shepherd
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today

Visit our autism section for the latest news on this subject. “Pharmacologic Treatment of Repetitive Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence of Publication Bias”
Melisa Carrasco, PhD, Fred R. Volkmar, MD, and Michael H. Bloch, MD, MS
Pediatrics, April 2012, doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3285 Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

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Rupert Shepherd B.Sc. “Are Benefits Of Antidepressants For Autism Overstated?.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 24 Apr. 2012. Web.
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