Study disproves positive effects of Prozac in children with autism

Major new research has concluded that antidepressants do little to ease the obsessive behaviours of autism.

The study, published by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), looked at claims that Prozac, a commonly used antidepressant, could help reduce compulsive behaviours in autistic children and teenagers.

According to the latest statistics, antidepressants like Prozac account for around a third of all prescriptions given to young people with autism.

The drug, known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), is normally used to treat patients with mental illness, such as anxiety or depression.

However, unconfirmed reports suggest that autistic people with obsessive-compulsive behaviours have seen success when prescribed the drug.

To test this hypothesis, the researchers compared two groups of children with autism over a 16 week period – one group was given Prozac, while the other was given a placebo.

While initial results showed “some behavioural improvements”, additional analyses revealed, “no significant difference” between the groups.

Commenting on the study, lead researcher Dinah Reddihough said: “While this is a study with negative findings, it is an important addition to the evidence base for deciding when and when not to prescribe psychoactive medications.”

She added that while the evidence suggests that Prozac is not an effective treatment, it shouldn’t be completely excluded as a medication for children with autism.

“If parents have any concerns about the use of fluoxetine they should speak with their health professional before changing any treatment plan,” she said.

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