Children and adolescents with irritability associated with autism who were treated with the antipsychotic Risperdal for nearly two years displayed improved social behavior, lessened social withdrawal and avoidance, and fewer odd behaviors, according to a new study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.
In a previous study, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center showed that Risperdal in children and adolescents with autism was effective at managing severe irritability, tantrums and aggression for the short term – after eight weeks and after six months of treatment. But long-term data was not available until now.
Micahel Aman, professor emeritus at the Nisonger Center at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, in a study involving 84 autistic children ages 5-17 found improvements in irritability, tantrums and hyperactivity or noncompliance at 21 months.
Risperdal, known generically as risperidone, is an antipsychotic approved to treat adults and children with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability with autism. It is sometimes used off-label to treat other behavioral conditions including ADHD and ADD.
Risperdal can increase prolactin levels in children. Prolactin is the hormone that is produced by pregnant women and women who have just given birth to cause breast growth and prompt lactation. Risperdal side effects in children include gynecomastia, a condition in which boys and young men grow breasts.
Gynecomastia can be emotionally and physically painful for boys, and can cause harm to their reproductive systems. Treatment generally involves surgeries including liposuction or mastectomy.
The latest study involving long-term use of Risperdal in children and adolescents did not track gynecomastia risk, but researchers did note that long-term use was associated with increased appetite and weight gain.
Source: Health News Digest