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Monday, May 12, 2014

Risperidone Use in Children with Autism Carries Heavy Risks

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

By Emily Anthes
April 28, 2014

Double edge: Risperidone can
calm tantrums and aggression
in some children with autism,
but sleepiness is a side effect.
Risperidone, the first drug approved for children with autism and the most widely used, improves some children’s behavior but can have severe sideeffects, suggests an informal analysis of the drug’s use.

The drug effectively treats the explosive and aggressive behavior that can accompany autism. “It has pretty big effects on tantrums, aggression and self-injury,” says Lawrence Scahill, professor of pediatrics at the Marcus Autism Center at Emory University in Atlanta.

It has also been shown to reduce hyperactivity and repetitive behaviors, though the Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for those purposes.

But risperidone also has significant drawbacks and limitations. Not all people respond to it, symptoms often return when the drug is discontinued, and it doesn’t improve many of the core behaviors associated with autism.

In other words, risperidone is “not a cure for autism,” says Benedetto Vitiello, chief of the Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Intervention Research Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health.

“It doesn’t really go to the core symptoms of autism.”

More worrisome, however, are the side effects, the most significant of which is weight gain from an increased appetite. Children taking risperidone gain an average of 6 pounds within eight weeks of taking the drug. The drug can also cause drowsiness, hormonal changes and, in rare cases, involuntary movements...

Read the entire article HERE.

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