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Res Dev Disabil. 2013 Sep;34(9):2551-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2013.05.028. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

Psychopharmacological treatment in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders in Germany.

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  • 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Philipps-University Marburg, Schützenstr. 49, D-35039 Marburg, Germany.


Data on psychopharmacological treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are scarce, especially for European countries. This study evaluated psychopharmacotherapy utilisation in children and adolescents with a diagnosis of ASD in Germany. Data of a large statutory health insurance company were analysed and outpatients aged 0-24 years with a diagnosis of ASD during a 1-year-period (2009) were identified. For this cohort, the prescription of psychopharmacotherapy was evaluated. Aditionally, we analysed time trends in prescriptions from 2004 to 2009. One thousand one hundred twenty-four patients (75.4% male; mean age: 11.1 years) matched the inclusion criteria. The prevalence of ASD was 0.37% in males and 0.12% in females, respectively. Of all ASD patients, 33.0% were prescribed psychotropic drugs in 2009. 12.5% of ASD patients were treated with stimulants or atomoxetine, 11.7% with antipsychotics, 9.1% with antiepileptics, 6.8% with benzodiazepines, and 3.8% with antidepressants/SSRI. Regarding substances, methylphenidate (24.4% of all psychotropic prescriptions), risperidone (13.3%) and valproate (9.1%) were most frequently prescribed. Psychopharmacologic treatment prevalence was age-related and increased from 16.3% in individuals aged 0-4 years to 55.1% in 20-24 year olds. From 2004 to 2009, the proportion of ASD patients treated with psychotropic drugs rose from 25.9% to 33.0%. This naturalistic study furnishes evidence that the proportion of ASD patients treated with psychotropic drugs has grown considerably in Germany over the least years, with methylphenidate and risperidone being the most frequently prescribed substances. Compared with data from the USA, the proportion of ASD patients with psychopharmacological treatment is noticeably lower in Germany.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Autism; Autism spectrum disorder; Germany; Pharmacoepidemiology; Psychopharmacotherapy

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