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Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2012 Aug;13(11):1615-29. doi: 10.1517/14656566.2012.674110. Epub 2012 May 3.

Pharmacotherapy to control behavioral symptoms in children with autism.

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Indiana University School of Medicine and Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center, Riley Hospital for Children, Department of Psychiatry, IN, USA.



Autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) are pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) frequently associated with behavioral symptoms that may require pharmacotherapy to manage.


Behavioral symptoms in children with autism include interfering repetitive behaviors, irritability, and hyperactivity and inattention, among others. The psychotropic medications examined in this review include: serotonin reuptake inhibitors, typical and atypical antipsychotics, medications used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, naltrexone, buspirone, divalproex sodium, lamotrigine, levetiracetam, memantine, mirtazapine, riluzole, pioglitazone, and topiramate.


For the treatment of interfering repetitive behaviors, serotonin reuptake inhibitors demonstrate less efficacy and are more poorly tolerated in children with autism compared to adults. Antipsychotics are the most efficacious drugs for the treatment of irritability in children with autism and other PDDs. For the treatment of hyperactivity and inattention, psychostimulants demonstrate some benefit. However, they are overall less efficacious and cause more side effects in children with PDDs compared to typically developing children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Results from double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of these agents and others for the treatment of the behavioral symptom domains described above will be discussed in this review.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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