Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Psychotropic Drug Use in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: How Often Does It Occur?

Photo by Brandon Giesbrecht via Flickr
While the evidence for the benefits of psychotropic medications for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is not particularly strong, we are all aware that children are being placed on these medications with the hope of improving their symptoms. Yet how commonly does this occur?

Spencer et al. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3774) look into this question through a retrospective observational study based on medical and pharmaceutical claims data linked to children with ASD enrolled in a health plan from 2001 to 2009. The prevalence of the use of psychotropic drugs (and not just one per patient, but even instances of two or more classes of drugs being used in one child) is eye opening—especially given the lack of strong evidence for their efficacy and the risk of side effects and adverse events. If ever there were a need to at least establish guidelines for better use of these medications in pediatric patients with ASD, this article should prompt such efforts. Read the study for yourself and see what I mean.

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