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Review: little evidence of clear benefit for most medical treatments for children with autism spectrum disorders

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Are antipsychotic, serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SRI) and stimulant medications effective in children younger than 12 with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)?


Effect on core symptoms of ASDs and common comorbid conditions, adverse effects.



Systematic review.

Data sources

Medline (via PubMED), PsycINFO and ERIC were searched from 2000 to May 2010. In addition, reference lists of all included articles were hand-searched and clinical trials and regulatory information related to therapies were reviewed to identify additional studies.

Study selection and analysis

All studies of medical interventions with at least 30 participants who were younger than 13 years and had ASDs were included, regardless of study design. Only studies published in or after the year 2000 were included, as this was after publication of the DSM-IV and the widespread use of gold standard ASD assessment tools. Two reviewers independently extracted study data and assessed the quality of the studies using standardised forms. The strength of the evidence for each intervention outcome pair was assessed using the Evidence-Based Practice Centers' methods guide. Due to the heterogeneity in the interventions and outcome measures, no meta-analysis was performed.

Main results

Eighteen studies were included in the …

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  • Sources of funding Sources of funding Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


  • Competing interests None.

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