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Citalopram ineffective for autistic children: study

2009-06-03 12:12 BJT

WASHINGTON, June 1 (Xinhua) -- Citalopram, an antidepressant commonly prescribed for children with autism, is no more effective than a placebo, according to a study published Monday.

Citalopram, an antidepressant commonly prescribed for children with autism, is no more effective than a placebo
Citalopram, an antidepressant commonly prescribed for children
with autism, is no more effective than a placebo.(File photo)

The government-funded study involving 149 participants aged 5 to 17 with autism spectrum disorders showed that citalopram actually may worsen some symptoms such as insomnia.

"Our study's findings may be frustrating news for hopeful families and clinicians," said Bryan King, the report's lead author and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Seattle Children's Hospital.

"Because citalopram showed no more benefit than placebo and it may produce side effects, providers need to carefully examine whether it is appropriately prescribed for repetitive behaviors in children with an autism spectrum disorder."

About half of the 149 children in the study were given a placebo and the others received the antidepressant. After three months of treatment, roughly one of three children in both groups -- 32.9 percent of those treated with citalopram and 34.2 percent of those treated with a placebo -- showed fewer or less severe repetitive symptoms.

The results indicated "no significant difference in the rate of positive response" and therefore did not "support the use of citalopram for the treatment of repetitive behavior in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder," the researchers reported in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

Adverse symptoms were common in both groups, but reports of increased energy, impulsiveness, decreased concentration, hyperactivity, diarrhea, insomnia, and dry skin were more common in the citalopram group, the researchers noted.

Citalopram, sold under the brand-name Celexa in the United States, belongs to a class of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Manufacturers are reportedly making more than six billion dollars a year from the sale of the drugs.

Editor: Yang Jie | Source: Xinhua