Antidepressants taken by autistic kids may have serious side effects

Children may suffer serious adverse effects as a result of taking the drugs.

Washington: A recent study has found that antidepressants taken by people with autistic spectrum disorders may have serious side-effects especially in children and cannot be recommended based on current evidence.

Cochrane researchers found that despite some evidence of benefits in adults diagnosed with autism, there is no evidence for any benefits associated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in children, who may suffer serious adverse effects as a result of taking the drugs.

The researchers included a total of seven trials, involving 271 patients, in their study. The trials evaluated fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, fenfluramine and citalopram.

Overall, the researchers found no benefit in the five trials in children and some evidence of serious harm, including one child who suffered a prolonged seizure after taking citalopram.

The two trials in adults were very small and thus, although there was some evidence for improvement in symptoms, the authors concluded there was too little evidence for the drugs to be recommended.

"We can`t recommend SSRIs as treatments for children, or adults, with autism at this time. However, decisions about the use of SSRIs for co-occurring obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggression, anxiety or depression in individuals with autism should be made on a case by case basis," said lead author Katrina Williams of the University of New South Wales.

"Not all the SSRIs currently in use have undergone controlled trials for autistic spectrum disorders, but parents are often anxious to try treatments regardless of the lack of evidence.”

"It`s important that doctors are open about the lack of evidence, and explain any risks fully, before prescribing these treatments," said Williams.


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