Antipsychotic Prescribing Trends in Youths with Autism and Intellectual Disability

Washington, D.C., May 31, 2016

About one in ten youths treated with an antipsychotic are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disability. Conversely, one in six youths diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder has been prescribed antipsychotics. These findings are reported in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP). Furthermore, the results suggest that the proportion of adolescents with autism or intellectual disability has increased among youths treated with antipsychotics and that more youths with autism or intellectual disability have received antipsychotics.

Currently, second-generation antipsychotics are the only FDA-approved medications for youth with autism. However, these are approved only for the symptomatic control of irritability and aggression. They do not have an indication for youth with intellectual disability, and they do not seem to affect the core symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, such as social and communication difficulties, or the core symptoms of intellectual disability, such as problems with understanding and responding appropriately to information from the outside world.

Performing a meta-analysis of 39 studies and over 350,000 youth with mental illness, a group of researchers led by Christoph U. Correll, MD, of Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, examined the frequency and time trends of antipsychotic prescribing in youth with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disability, mostly drawing on data from large registry-based studies.

“Although the increased prescribing of antipsychotics in youth with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disability cannot be judged as appropriate or inappropriate based on database studies, side effects of antipsychotics can be quite problematic, especially in children and adolescents,” said Correll. “Therefore, clinicians should perform very careful risk: benefit evaluation before and after starting youth with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual disability on an antipsychotic, always trying to maximize non-pharmacologic interventions as well as pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic treatments for comorbidities, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and sleep disorders.”

Based on the study results and the known adverse effects of antipsychotics, the authors concluded that clinicians should consider using psychosocial interventions that are proven to be efficient for behavioral dysregulation such as irritability and aggression, before prescribing antipsychotics to adolescents with autism or intellectual disability. The authors further stressed that when prescribing antipsychotics, it is imperative to regularly monitor both their efficacy and tolerability in patients through body weight, fasting lipids and glucose, extrapyramidal side effects, sedation, and sexual/reproductive adverse effects, and to manage abnormalities appropriately.

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Notes for editors
The article is “Antipsychotic Use Trends in Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or Intellectual Disability: A Meta-Analysis” by Su Young Park, Chiara Cervesi, Britta Galling, Silvia Molteni, Frozan Walyzada, Stephanie H. Ameis, Tobias Gerhard, Mark Olfson, and Christoph U. Correll (doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2016.03.012). It appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 55, Issue 6 (June 2016), published by Elsevier.

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Mary Billingsley at +1 202 587 9672 or mbillingsley@jaacap.org. Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Dr. Christoph U. Correll at ccorrell@lij.edu.

All articles published in JAACAP are embargoed until the day they are published as in-press corrected proofs online at http://jaacap.org/inpress. Articles cannot be publicized as in-press accepted manuscripts. Contents of the publication should not be released to or by the media or government agencies prior to the embargo date.

About JAACAP
Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families. www.jaacap.com

The Journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The Journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

About Elsevier
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Media contact
Mary Billingsley
JAACAP Editorial Office
mbillingsley@jaacap.org
+1 202 587 9672