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Drug treatment of autism spectrum disorder and its comorbidities in children and adolescents

  • Paramala J. Santosh and Jatinder Singh
Summary

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex, multifactorial disorder, the prevalence of which is rising. Specific biomarkers are yet to be identified for the classic ASD phenotypes, so despite treatment advances, most interventions focus on the comorbid disorders of ASD and have little impact on the underlying pathogenesis of the disorder. This article describes drug treatments that target the core symptoms of ASD and its comorbid conditions in children and adolescents. Difficulties and challenges encountered when treating the most frequent comorbidities are discussed, with emphasis on the safety, tolerability and efficacy of medications. In view of its widespread use, complementary and alternative medicine is also described.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Dr Paramala J. Santosh, Centre for Interventional Paediatric Psychopharmacology and Rare Diseases (CIPPRD), 4 Windsor Walk, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8BB, UK. Email: paramala.1.santosh@kcl.ac.uk
Footnotes
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For a commentary see pp. 162–164, this issue. For a discussion of non-drug treatments (parent-mediated early interventions) see also pp. 146 and 147–150.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

• Be aware that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders, depression and challenging behaviour (aggression and irritability) are frequently comorbid in ASD

• Understand that current drug treatments mainly aim to ameliorate such comorbidities without targeting the biological mechanisms that are responsible for the core symptoms of ASD

• Appreciate that for managing the core features of ASD, treatment programmes involving psychosocial, language and behavioural therapies remain the mainstay

DECLARATION OF INTEREST

P.J.S. is a co-inventor of the HealthTracker™ and a director of HealthTracker Ltd

Footnotes
References
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Drug treatment of autism spectrum disorder and its comorbidities in children and adolescents

  • Paramala J. Santosh and Jatinder Singh
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