As many as 1 in every 110 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Many medical treatments for ASDs have been proposed and studied, but there is currently no consensus regarding which interventions are most effective.
To systematically review evidence regarding medical treatments for children aged 12 years and younger with ASDs.
We searched the Medline, PsycInfo, and ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) databases from 2000 to May 2010, regulatory data for approved medications, and reference lists of included articles. Two reviewers independently assessed each study against predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria. Studies of secretin were not included in this review. Two reviewers independently extracted data regarding participant and intervention characteristics, assessment techniques, and outcomes and assigned overall quality and strength-of-evidence ratings on the basis of predetermined criteria.
Evidence supports the benefit of risperidone and aripiprazole for challenging and repetitive behaviors in children with ASDs. Evidence also supports significant adverse effects of these medications. Insufficient strength of evidence is present to evaluate the benefits or adverse effects for any other medical treatments for ASDs, including serotonin-reuptake inhibitors and stimulant medications.
Although many children with ASDs are currently treated with medical interventions, strikingly little evidence exists to support benefit for most treatments. Risperidone and aripiprazole have shown benefit for challenging and repetitive behaviors, but associated adverse effects limit their use to patients with severe impairment or risk of injury.