Pharmacotherapy of Target Symptoms in Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF, UK.
The Indian Journal of Pediatrics (Impact Factor: 0.87). 06/2001; 68(5):427-31. DOI: 10.1007/BF02723022
Source: PubMed


There are no aetiologically-based treatments available to cure autism. Though psychotropics have a role in the management of some symptoms of autism, clinical trial evidence for the use of psychotropics is in its infancy and needs close monitoring. About half of the subjects with high functioning pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) are currently reported to be on psychotropics (anti-depressants, stimulants and antipsychotics), with many of them being on anti-epileptic medication simultaneously. Despite this high level of psychotropic use, few studies exist investigating the pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics or side-effect profiles in this population. Multiprofessional and parent partnership is essential in managing autism and psychopharmacology should be used in conjunction with environmental manipulation, educational modification and/or behavioral management strategies. A symptomatic approach to managing the difficult behaviours associated with autism is recommended. Some symptoms of autism may be medication responsive (hyperactivity, obsessions, rituals, inattention, tics, etc), while other symptoms may be responsive to behavioural interventions, but may require medication (aggression, anxiety, depression, impulsivity, sleep difficulties, etc), and symptoms which need specific skill remediation are usually non-responsive to medication (deficits in academic, social or sport domains). The new atypical antipsychotics (such as risperidone, olanzapine, amisulpiride, quetiapine) and SSRIs are increasingly being used in autism, with encouraging results, but a risk-benefit ratio of pharmacotherapy is essential with due weight being given to the side-effects of medication. Despite symptomatic improvement with medication, one should remain cautious about long-term use of psychotropics. It is also important to recognize that psychotropics can sometimes worsen behaviour, and can produce iatrogenic symptoms. Certain anti-epileptic medication and psychotropic drugs are metabolized by the same cytochrome P450 isoenzymes in the liver. In such circumstances, the addition of a psychotropic agent may drastically alter the levels of the anti-epileptic medication and vice versa. It is suggested that specialist clinics should be involved when one is considering complex medication regimes, experimental drugs, polypharmacy, or if patients show unusual side-effects or is drug resistant.

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Available from: Paramala Santosh, Aug 31, 2015
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    • "d a Participants met KID-SCID criteria for at least one comorbid disorder (for the ADHD sample a KID-SCID diagnosis of ADHD was excluded) b Participants met KID-SCID criteria for at least one anxiety disorder and/or mood disorder c Participants met KID-SCID criteria for ODD and/or CD d Group assignment was based on clinical diagnosis and therefore it was possible that not all participants with ADHD were having an ADHD diagnosis according to the KID-SCID protocols for pharmacotherapy, and behavioral therapy for these additional anxiety symptoms in ASD is available (e.g. Posey and McDougle 2000; Santosh and Baird 2001). It is thus important to be aware of these comorbid symptoms , because not only are they treatable (whereas the core ASD symptoms are not), not treating them may lead to extra impairments in daily life skills such as completing school work or engaging in social situations. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study was conducted with the aim to identify comorbid psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (n = 40) and to compare those comorbidity rates to those in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (n = 40). Participants were clinically referred children aged 7-18 years. DSM-IV classifications were used for the primary diagnosis (ASD/ADHD), while comorbid psychiatric disorders were assessed using a structured diagnostic interview, the structured clinical interview for DSM-IV, childhood diagnoses (KID-SCID). Twenty-three children with ASD (57.5 %) had at least one comorbid disorder, whereas 16 children with ADHD (40.0 %) were classified as having at least one comorbid disorder. No group differences were found with respect to this comorbidity rate or for the rate of comorbid externalizing disorders (ODD and/or CD). However, children with ASD had more comorbid internalizing disorders compared to children with ADHD. More specifically, children with ASD had higher rates of anxiety disorders, but not mood disorders. No associations between comorbidity and age or between comorbidity and the intelligence quotient was found. It is important for clinicians to always be aware of, and screen for, comorbidity, and to consider treatment for these comorbid disorders. In addition, research should focus on establishing valid and reliable screening tools as well as effective treatment options for these comorbid disorders.
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