Emerging role of aripiprazole for treatment of irritability associated with autistic disorder in children and adolescents
Joan Stachnik, Michael Gabay
Department of Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, USA
Abstract: Autistic disorder is a largely misunderstood and difficult to treat neurodevelopmental disorder. Three core domains of functioning are affected by autistic disorder, ie, socialization, communication, and behavior. Signs of autistic disorder may be present early, but are frequently overlooked, resulting in a delay in its diagnosis and a subsequent delay in treatment. No one definitive therapy is available, and treatment consists of early educational and behavioral interventions, as well as drug therapy. Atypical antipsychotics have often been used in the treatment of autistic disorder to target irritability, aggression, and self-injurious behavior, all of which can interfere with other aspects of treatment. One atypical antipsychotic, aripiprazole, has recently been approved for treatment of irritability associated with autistic disorder. Based on the results from two randomized, controlled trials, with efficacy data from nearly 300 patients, treatment with aripiprazole was associated with reductions in irritability, global improvements in behavior, and improvements in quality of life from both the patient and caregiver perspectives. Dosage of aripiprazole ranged from 5 mg to 15 mg per day. Aripiprazole was well tolerated during clinical trials, with most adverse events considered mild or moderate. Clinically relevant weight gain occurred in about 30% of patients given aripiprazole, although when compared with other atypical antipsychotics, aripiprazole appears to have fewer metabolic effects and a lower risk of weight gain. However, pediatric patients taking any atypical antipsychotic should be carefully monitored for potential adverse events, because the long-term effects of antipsychotic therapy in this population are not well known. When used appropriately, aripiprazole has the potential to be an effective treatment for children with autistic disorder to improve irritability and aggressive behavior and improve quality of life.
Keywords: autism, autistic disorder, aripiprazole, atypical antipsychotics
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