Washington: A specific antioxidant supplement may be an effective therapy for some features of autism.This is according to a pilot trial from the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital that involved 31 children with the disorder.The antioxidant, called PharmaNAC, contains pharmaceutical-grade N-acetylcysteine and is specially packed to preserve its potency.PharmaNAC lowered irritability in children with autism as well as reduced the children’s repetitive behaviors. The researchers emphasized that the findings must be confirmed in a larger trial.Irritability affects 60 to 70 percent of children with autism.“We’re not talking about mild things: This is throwing, kicking, and hitting; the child needing to be restrained. It can affect learning, vocational activities and the child’s ability to participate in autism therapies,” said Antonio Hardan, MD, the primary author of the new study.Hardan is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford and director of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic at Packard Children’s.Finding new medications to treat autism and its symptoms is a high priority for researchers. Currently, irritability, mood swings and aggression, all of which are considered associated features of autism, are treated with second-generation antipsychotics. But these drugs cause significant side effects, including weight gain, involuntary motor movements and metabolic syndrome, which increases diabetes risk.By contrast, side effects of PharmaNAC are generally occasional and mild, with gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, nausea, diarrhea and decreased appetite. Most people report no side effects. It is easy for children to take because the PharmaNAC tablet is dropped into a small glass of water to make a fizzy drink, so the child can take it without having to swallow a pill or capsule.
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