To review clinical trials and reports describing the efficacy and safety of atypical antipsychotics (olanzapine, ziprasidone, quetiapine, aripiprazole) in the treatment of autistic or other pervasive developmental disorders.
English-language publications from the MEDLINE database (1966-February 2007) including clinical trials, case reports, and retrospective series were reviewed.
Relevant data were extracted from studies of selected atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of autistic disorder in children, adolescents, and adults. Most literature found was in the form of case reports or case series; however, several open-label and double-blind trials were also identified.
Autistic disorder is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder with limited treatment options. Nonpharmacologic approaches may be the most beneficial, but pharmacologic agents are needed for some patients with significant behavioral manifestations of the disorder. The atypical antipsychotics (olanzapine, ziprasidone, quetiapine, aripiprazole) have shown some efficacy in improving certain behavioral symptoms of autistic disorder--primarily aggressiveness, hyperactivity, and self-injurious behavior. Efficacy was based on observation or changes from baseline in behavioral rating scores. Data appear to be strongest for olanzapine compared with quetiapine, with several open-label trials suggesting its efficacy. Weight gain and sedation were frequently reported adverse events with both agents. Aripiprazole has demonstrated efficacy in limited case series, with minimal adverse effects reported.
Atypical antipsychotics represent a treatment option for symptoms associated with autistic disorder. However, these drugs do not affect the core symptoms of autistic disorder and are associated with potentially significant adverse effects. In addition, there is a lack of randomized controlled trials to determine the true efficacy and long-term safety of these agents in the pediatric population.