New study shows Prozac no better than placebo in treating autism

pharmafile | October 23, 2019 | News story | Research and Development  

A small study has found that the commonly prescribed medication for kids and teenagers with autism is no more effective than placebo in controlling obsessive-compulsive behaviours.

The results of the study were published in Jama and cause severe doubt on the prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, to treat children with autism who have certain negative behaviours.

Neumyer, medical director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Lurie Center for Autism said: “We really don’t have any good medications that have yet been studied in children with autism for these behaviours.

“This is obviously a problem.”

Currently speaking SSRIs account for a quarter to a third of all prescriptions to children and teens with autism and despite their broad use there is little evidence for their effectiveness in autism spectrum disorders in children.

In one of the studies, 109 youngsters aged between 7 and 18 completed a four month trial in which they were randomly assigned to receive a low dose of 20 or 30 milligrams of fluoxetine. The researchers tracked changes in their obsessive compulsive symptoms and at first the fluoxetine group appeared to show a slight easing of obsessive-compulsive symptoms after four months. However after including factors such as age, sex, and the severity of symptoms, the difference became somewhat permissible.

A 2013 review supported the new findings as it analysed nine clinical trials involving 320 participants and found that SSRIs found not therapeutic benefit for children and adolescents, however authors of the study did call for larger scale attempts to assess the question better.

Neumeyer went on to say that: “It’s really important that negative results are published. The new study shows that SSRIs are not the medications clinicians should go to first.”

Nik Kiran

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