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Analysis Shows Bias in Publication of Drug Studies for Autism

4/23/2012 For Release: April 23, 2012

​​​​​​​According to published research, serotonin receptor inhibitors (SRIs) have a small but significant benefit in treating repetitive behaviors, which are a core feature in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and can be a barrier to children’s learning and social function. But a meta-analysis in the May 2012 Pediatrics, published online April 23, found that may be because studies with positive results are more likely to be published. For the article, “Pharmacologic Treatment of Repetitive Behaviors in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence of Publication Bias,” researchers identified five published and five unpublished but completed trials that were eligible for meta-analysis. Five of the published and one of the unpublished trials demonstrated a small but significant effect of SRI for the treatment of repetitive behaviors in ASD. Study authors found significant evidence of publication bias. When the results were adjusted to take into account the role of unpublished studies within the field, there was no longer a significant benefit for the medications. Study authors conclude that timely, transparent and complete disclosure of trial results is critical to finding effective treatments for children with ASD.

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