Behavioural or drug therapy little benefit in autism

THERE is strikingly little evidence to support a benefit for drug therapy or specific intensive behavioural approaches in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), researchers say.

In a systematic review covering 18 studies, US researchers assessed the benefits of antipsychotics, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and psychostimulants in children with ASDs aged under 12 years.

“A few medications have shown benefit for challenging or repetitive behaviours, and the clearest evidence favours risperidone and aripiprazole,” they concluded. 

However, associated adverse effects limit the use of these agents to patients with severe impairment or risk of injury.

Despite a suggestion of benefit from SSRIs in two trials, the strength of evidence was poor, and while methylphenidate had been demonstrated superior to placebo in one trial, it was not well tolerated.

In a separate review, the team from