Clinical potential, safety, and tolerability of arbaclofen in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder
Richard E Frye
Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, USA
Abstract: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a behaviorally defined disorder which has increased in prevalence over the last two decades. Despite decades of research, no effective treatment is currently available. Animal models, as well as other lines of evidence, point to abnormalities in the balance of cortical excitation to inhibition in individuals with ASD, with this imbalance resulting in an overall increase in cortical excitation. To reduce cortical excitatory glutamate pathways, arbaclofen, a selective agonist of the gamma aminobutyric acid receptor type B, has been developed. This article reviews the evidence for this treatment for ASD using a systematic review methodology. Overall, a systematic search of the literature revealed 148 relevant references with the majority of these being review papers or news items that mentioned the potential promise of arbaclofen. Five original studies were identified, four of which used STX209, a form of arbaclofen developed by Seaside Therapeutics, Inc., and one which used R-baclofen. In an animal model, treatment of Fragile X, a genetic disease with ASD features, demonstrated a reversal of behavioral, neurological, and neuropathological features associated with the disease. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study treated children and adults with Fragile X. Results from this study were promising, with signs of improvement in social function, especially in the most severely socially impaired. Two studies, one open-label and one double-blind, placebo-controlled, were conducted in children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD. These studies suggested some improvements in socialization, although the effects were limited and may have been driven by individuals with ASD that were higher-functioning. These studies and others that have used arbaclofen for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux suggest that arbaclofen is safe and well-tolerated. Clearly, further clinical studies are needed in order to refine the symptoms and characteristics of children with ASD that are best treated with arbaclofen.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, Fragile X, gamma-aminobutyric acid, arbaclofen, R-baclofen, STX209
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