Celexa failed autism study

An antidepressant that is among the most popular kinds of medicine used for treating autism didn’t work for most kids and caused nightmares and other side effects, new research found.

CHICAGO — An antidepressant that is among the most popular kinds of medicine used for treating autism didn’t work for most kids and caused nightmares and other side effects, new research found.

Results showed risks with Celexa outweighed any benefits in the largest published study of medication versus dummy pills for autism.

That’s according to the lead author, Dr. Bryan King, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington medical school.

The drug is not approved for treating autism. However, many doctors have prescribed it, thinking it might help prevent repetitive behaviours such as spinning, twirling and head-banging that are hallmark autism symptoms. Similar antidepressants have been shown to help treat repetitive actions in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But in the autism study, Celexa worked no better than dummy pills. In fact, compared with kids on placebo, those on Celexa were more than twice as likely to develop repetitive behaviours, as well as other side effects including sleep problems and hyperactivity.

Celexa is in a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which are among the most widely used medicines given for autism.

The new research could “change this practice,” said prominent Yale University autism researcher Dr. Fred Volkmar. He commented in an editorial released with the study Monday in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

The results echo a separate study reported in February that showed a low-dose form of Prozac, another SSRI, also did not reduce repetitive behaviors in autism.

The overall global market for drug treatment in autism is at least US$2 billion and SSRI antidepressants account for nearly 60 per cent of that, the study authors said.

Celexa’s maker, Forest Laboratories Inc., issued a statement saying the company “was not involved in this study and therefore cannot provide comment.”

The National Institutes of Health paid for the research.

Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, said the new results underscore the difficulty in treating a condition with an uncertain cause and symptoms that range from mild to severe. “We are still so challenged to come up with medications that can address core symptoms.”

The study involved 149 autistic children aged five to 17 who were randomly given either up to 20 milligrams daily of Celexa for 12 weeks or dummy pills.

Doctors rated children’s symptoms during treatment on a scale of 1 to 7, with high scores reflecting worsening symptoms. The rating method allowed doctors to evaluate improvements in repetitive actions and also other behaviours.

Only about one-third of children on Celexa showed substantial improvement; most showed little or no improvement or got worse.

Celexa is among antidepressants labelled with a warning about the potential for increasing risks for suicidal thoughts and behaviour in children, but these symptoms didn’t occur in the study.

Just Posted

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in Edmonton for climate rally; counter-rally planned

EDMONTON — Albertans are planning to hit Edmonton’s streets today to support… Continue reading

Fewer than 850 irregular border crossers deported, hundreds more in limbo

Multiple options for appeals, diplomatic difficulties and changing global conditions mean only… Continue reading

Rural crime tour hits Sylvan Lake

About 60 people showed up to voice concerns about state of crime and punishment in Alberta

Alberta commits to expanding duties of licensed practical nurses

EDMONTON — Alberta’s 16,000 licensed practical nurses will soon be allowed to… Continue reading

Alberta legislation would unplug NDP plan to change electricity power market

EDMONTON — Alberta has introduced legislation to formally pull the plug on… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Wednesday Red Deer River Naturalists Flower Focus Group Meeting. When: Oct. 16… Continue reading

Meet the candidates running in Red Deer-Lacombe

Each of the candidates running in the Red Deer-Lacombe riding were invited… Continue reading

Kawhi back in Canada, NBA GMs think he’ll go back to finals

Kawhi Leonard was back in Canada, where last season he won a… Continue reading

Saskatchewan Roughriders aim to bring home energy on the road to B.C. Lions

VANCOUVER — The Saskatchewan Roughriders are hoping they can bring the spirit… Continue reading

Alberta commits to expanding duties of licensed practical nurses

EDMONTON — Alberta’s 16,000 licensed practical nurses will soon be allowed to… Continue reading

Alberta legislation would unplug NDP plan to change electricity power market

EDMONTON — Alberta has introduced legislation to formally pull the plug on… Continue reading

‘A mess out here:’ Manitoba farmers struggling with wet crops after snowstorm

WINNIPEG — More Manitoba residents saw their electricity restored Thursday — one… Continue reading

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

OTTAWA — Four days before Canadians go to the polls, the leaders… Continue reading

Most Read