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J Pediatr Health Care. 2009 Mar-Apr;23(2):75-89. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2008.12.001.

Pharmacologic treatment for the core deficits and associated symptoms of autism in children.

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Carolina Pediatric Group, Fayetteville, NC, USA.


Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting 1 out of 160 children in the United States today. Only risperidone has Food and Drug Administration approval for the pharmacologic management of autism in children. However, health care providers may prescribe other drugs used off-label to assist autistic children and their families with the core deficits and associated behaviors of this condition. Evidence for the use of these medications will be discussed in this continuing education offering. Meta analyses, randomized clinical trials, and other prospective experimental studies of pharmacotherapy conducted in the United States in the past 10 years in children between the ages of 5 and 15 years were reviewed. The results support moderate success in treating the associated behaviors of autism and minimal success in treating core deficits across all drug classes. Preliminary evidence demonstrates possible uses for atypical antipsychotic agents, selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors, stimulants, and N-methyl-D-aspirate receptor antagonists in decreasing the core behaviors and associated symptoms of autism. More studies and longer periods of follow-up are needed before definitive guidelines can be suggested.

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