Published on April 23rd, 2012 | by Kim LaCapria0
Autism Drug Evidence May Be Biased, ‘Overrated,’ Study Finds
As rates of autism skyrocket in the US, a new meta-analysis reveals that evidence supporting the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be overstated and subject to a positivity bias.
Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor searched for randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trials in databases like PubMed.com that focused on the use of SSRIs and “similar antidepressants” in children who are autistic. Lead researcher Melisa Carrasco and her team found 15 studies that might fit the criteria, initially excluding five for not being stringent enough. A further five were classed as completed, but had not been published, leading to five studies that fit all criteria and achieved publication.
In an email to Reuters Health, Carrasco explained:
“The main issue to emphasize is that SSRIs are perhaps not as effective at treating repetitive behaviors as previously thought. Further research will help confirm these findings in the long run.”
In the unpublished studies, three suggested a benefit in using SSRIs to treat autism, and three suggested little to no benefit, which Carrasco explains may be “publication bias” due to their negative outcomes. In the journal Pediatrics, she explains:
“The research made it clear that the effects of (serotonin receptor inhibitors) treatment of (autism spectrum disorders) are considerably overrated.”
Researchers noted that the findings do not mean that there are not benefits to using SSRIs in treating anxiety disorders related to autism.