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Many Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Prescribed at Least One Psychotropic Medication

10/21/2013 For Release: October 21, 2013

​​​​​​​In a study, 64 percent of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) had been prescribed at least one psychotropic medication. The study, “Psychotropic Medication Use and Polypharmacy in Children with AutismSpectrum Disorders,” published in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics (published online Oct. 21), analyzed health plan medical and pharmacy claims, as well as socio-demographic information, from 2001 to 2009. The study authors found that 35 percent of children diagnosed with ASD were simultaneously prescribed two or more medications involving multiple psychotropic classes and lasting at least 30 days, or “psychotropic polypharmacy,” and 15 percent had evidence of polypharmacy involving three or more drug classes. Common combinations of medication classes included antidepressants and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) medications; antipsychotic medications and ADD medications; antipsychotic medication and antidepressants; and antipsychotics, antidepressants and ADD medications. According to the study authors, some clinicians caring for children with ASD may not be aware of the extent and effects of psychotropic use, especially in combination with other drugs, and this may be a concern particularly for these complex children who often see multiple providers. The authors recommend that primary care providers carefully monitor drug prescriptions, symptoms, and effectiveness. Standards of care also must be developed for psychotropic medication use specifically in ASD patients.


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