Drug shows some benefit for kids with autism

May 2, 2013 by Kathleen Doheny, Healthday Reporter
Drug shows some benefit for kids with autism
Study found no gains in lethargy, social withdrawal, but those on the drug improved in other ways.

(HealthDay)—An experimental drug for autism did not improve levels of lethargy and social withdrawal in children who took it, but it did show some other benefits, a new study finds.

Children on arbaclofen did improve on an overall measure of autism severity when compared to kids taking an inactive , said lead researcher Dr. Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, an associate professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University.

He is to present the findings Thursday at the International Meeting for (IMFAR) in Spain.

One of 88 children in the United States is now diagnosed with an , the umbrella term for complex disorders marked by problems in and communication.

Veenstra-VanderWeele focused on evaluating the social improvement with the drug because earlier research had suggested it could help. However, one of the earlier studies did not compare the drug to a placebo, but simply measured improvement in those who took the drug.

In the new study, Veenstra-VanderWeele and his team assigned 150 people with autism, aged 5 to 21, to take the medicine or a placebo, without knowing which group they were in, for eight weeks. The participants had been diagnosed with autistic disorder, Asperger's syndrome or another related condition known as pervasive developmental disorder.

In all, 130 finished the study. When no differences were found in or between the two groups, the researchers looked at a scale that measures severity and improvement of autism with treatment.

Those on the drug improved more on that scale. A child, for instance, who began the study evaluated as having marked severity might be described as moderate by the study's end, Veenstra-VanderWeele said.

"This is the sort of improvement that would motivate us to start a medicine," he said.

The drug is believed to work, Veenstra-VanderWeele said, by increasing inhibition, improving social functioning and interactions.

Right now, Veenstra-VanderWeele said, "there is no medication that has clear evidence to improve social function in autism."

Those on the drug did report side effects, including suicidal thoughts reported by one patient on the drug and one on the placebo. Some patients on the drug became upset more easily; others reported sleepiness.

The next phase of trials of the drug are in the planning stages, Veenstra-VanderWeele said.

But more research is needed, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.

Even though the expected benefit did not materialize, Adesman sees a reason to continue to study the medication. "There is [still] some suggestion of benefit from the medicine," Adesman said. "It just didn't quite show up where they expected."

The drug may offer benefit to some children with autism, Adesman said. "But it's unclear which children may be the best candidates."

The trial received funding from the drug's maker, Seaside Therapeutics. The medication is not currently approved by the U.S. Food and Administration.

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: Research lacking on drugs for older children with autism, study finds

More information: To learn more about autism, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related Stories

Research lacking on drugs for older children with autism, study finds

September 24, 2012
(HealthDay)—More and more children are growing up with autism, and although many treatments and interventions are now available, clinical studies on the use of medications in teens and young adults are lacking, according ...

Common heart drug might dampen some autism symptoms

December 11, 2012
(HealthDay)—A medication typically prescribed to control high blood pressure that's commonly referred to as a water pill may ease some of the symptoms of autism, researchers say.

New clinical trial to examine medication to treat social withdrawal in Fragile X and autism

July 20, 2011
Children and adults with social withdrawal due to Fragile X syndrome, the most common cause of inherited intellectual disability and the most common known single gene cause of autism, may benefit from an experimental drug ...

Novel mouse model for autism yields clues to a 50-year-old mystery

March 20, 2012
Early disruptions in serotonin signaling in the brain may contribute to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and other "enduring effects on behavior," Vanderbilt University researchers report.

Fragile X study offers new drug hope

September 24, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—An experimental drug can improve sociability in patients with fragile X syndrome and may be helpful as a treatment for autism, according to a study.

Mothers of kids with autism earn less, study shows

March 19, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Mothers of children with autism and autism spectrum disorders earn significantly less than what mothers of children who have no health limitations earn, a new study has found.

Recommended for you

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Females with autism show greater difficulty with day-to-day tasks than male counterparts

July 14, 2017
Women and girls with autism may face greater challenges with real world planning, organization and other daily living skills, according to a study published in the journal Autism Research.

Researchers investigate possible link between carnitine deficiency and autism

July 13, 2017
Researchers are always looking for new clues to the causes of autism, with special emphasis on prevention or treatment. At Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Arthur Beaudet has been following clinical and genetic clues in patients ...

How children look at mom's face is influenced by genetic factors and altered in autism

July 12, 2017
New research has uncovered compelling evidence that genetics plays a major role in how children look at the world and whether they have a preference for gazing at people's eyes and faces or at objects.

Oxytocin improves social abilities in some kids with autism, study finds

July 10, 2017
Children with autism showed improved social behavior when treated with oxytocin, a hormone linked to social abilities, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Children with low ...

Possible early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

June 29, 2017
Measuring a set of proteins in the blood may enable earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study from the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.