In Pediatrics, Dwayne Dove and colleagues look at the literature on medications. As with so many other aspects of the issue, our knowledge is extremely limited.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Although many treatments have been studied in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), less attention has focused on interventions that may be helpful in adolescents and young adults with ASD. The goal of this study was to systematically review evidence regarding medication treatments for individuals between the ages of 13 and 30 years with ASD.
METHODS: The Medline, PsycINFO, and ERIC databases were searched (1980–December 2011), as were reference lists of included articles. Two investigators independently assessed studies against predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria. Two investigators 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.
RESULTS: Eight studies of medications were identified that focused on 13- to 30-year-olds with ASD; 4 of the studies were of fair quality. The strength of evidence was insufficient for all outcomes associated with medications tested in this population; however, the 2 available studies of the atypical antipsychotic medication risperidone in this age range were consistent with the moderate evidence in children with ASD for treating problem behavior, including aggression, and high strength of evidence for adverse events, including sedation and weight gain.
CONCLUSIONS: There is a marked lack of data on use of medication treatments for adolescents and young adults with ASD. The evidence on the use of risperidone in this age range is insufficient when considered alone but is consistent with the data in the population of children with ASD.