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Outcome Measures for Clinical Drug Trials in Autism


This paper identifies instruments and measures that may be appropriate for randomized clinical trials in participants with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The Clinical Global Impressions scale was recommended for all randomized clinical trials. At this point, however, there is no “perfect” choice of outcome measure for core features of autism, although we will discuss five measures of potential utility. Several communication instruments are recommended, based in part on suitability across the age range. In trials where the intention is to alter core features of ASDs, adaptive behavior scales are also worthy of consideration. Several “behavior complexes” common to ASDs are identified, and instruments are recommended for assessment of these. Given the prevalence of cognitive impairment in ASDs, it is important to assess any cognitive effects, although cognitive data from ASD randomized clinical trials, thus far, are minimal. Guidance from trials in related pharmacologic areas and behavioral pharmacology may be helpful. We recommend routine elicitation of side effects, height and weight, vital signs, and (in the case of antipsychotics) extrapyramidal side-effects assessment. It is often appropriate to include laboratory tests and assessments for continence and sleep pattern.

Corresponding author
Please direct all correspondence to: Michael G. Aman, PhD, The Nisonger Center, Ohio State University, 175 McCampbell Hall, 1581 Dodd Dr. Columbus, Ohio 43210-1257; E-mail:
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