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Lack of efficacy of citalopram in children with autism spectrum disorders and high levels of repetitive behavior: citalopram ineffective in children with autism.

Author(s): King BH, Hollander E, Sikich L, McCracken JT, Scahill L, Bregman JD, Donnelly CL, Anagnostou E, Dukes K, Sullivan L, Hirtz D, Wagner A, Ritz L, STAART Psychopharmacology Network

Affiliation(s): Seattle Children's Hospital, University of Washington, 4800 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105, USA. bhking@u.washington.edu

Publication date & source: 2009-06, Arch Gen Psychiatry., 66(6):583-90.

Publication type: Multicenter Study; Randomized Controlled Trial; Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

CONTEXT: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are widely prescribed for children with autism spectrum disorders. OBJECTIVES: To determine the efficacy and safety of citalopram hydrobromide therapy for repetitive behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders. DESIGN: National Institutes of Health-sponsored randomized controlled trial. SETTING: Six academic centers, including Mount Sinai School of Medicine, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of California at Los Angeles, Yale University, and Dartmouth Medical School. PARTICIPANTS: One hundred forty-nine volunteers 5 to 17 years old (mean [SD] age, 9.4 [3.1] years) were randomized to receive citalopram (n = 73) or placebo (n = 76). Participants had autistic spectrum disorders, Asperger disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified; had illness severity ratings of at least moderate on the Clinical Global Impressions, Severity of Illness Scale; and scored at least moderate on compulsive behaviors measured with the Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scales modified for pervasive developmental disorders. INTERVENTIONS: Twelve weeks of citalopram hydrobromide (10 mg/5 mL) or placebo. The mean (SD) maximum dosage of citalopram hydrobromide was 16.5 (6.5) mg/d by mouth (maximum, 20 mg/d). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Positive response was defined by a score of much improved or very much improved on the Clinical Global Impressions, Improvement subscale. An important secondary outcome was the score on the Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scales modified for pervasive developmental disorders. Adverse events were systematically elicited using the Safety Monitoring Uniform Report Form. RESULTS: There was no significant difference in the rate of positive response on the Clinical Global Impressions, Improvement subscale between the citalopram-treated group (32.9%) and the placebo group (34.2%) (relative risk, 0.96; 95% confidence interval, 0.61-1.51; P > .99). There was no difference in score reduction on the Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scales modified for pervasive developmental disorders from baseline (mean [SD], -2.0 [3.4] points for the citalopram-treated group and -1.9 [2.5] points for the placebo group; P = .81). Citalopram use was significantly more likely to be associated with adverse events, particularly increased energy level, impulsiveness, decreased concentration, hyperactivity, stereotypy, diarrhea, insomnia, and dry skin or pruritus. CONCLUSION: Results of this trial do not support the use of citalopram for the treatment of repetitive behavior in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Trial Registration clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00086645.

Page last updated: 2009-10-20

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