Research shows drug used to treat autism doesn’t help

A new study shows that citalopram (celexa), a commonly prescribed drug used to reduce repetitive behaviors in children with autism, is no more effective than a placebo and causes more side effects.

In the clinical trial, 149 children between 5-17 were evaluated by researchers in the National Institutes for Health-funded Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment. About half received citalopram, a type of antidepressant that has become one of the most frequently prescribed drugs for children with autism spectrum disorders, but which is not FDA-approved for this use. The other half of the study’s participants received a placebo.

In the June 20 issue of"Archives of General Psychiatry,” the researchers reported little difference in reduction of symptoms among both groups, but the children who took citalopram were more likely to have side effects.

In spite of this study, parents should not stop the drug without a doctor’s help."There are drugs that should not be stopped abruptly, so the doctor should be involved in developing a schedule to wean the child off the medication,” says Dr. Lisa Thornton, director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital.

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