Efficacy of Serotonin Receptor Inhibitors in Autism Unclear

Meta-analysis finds evidence SRIs help repetitive behaviors; results may be due to publication bias

MONDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- Serotonin receptor inhibitors (SRIs) have a small but significant effect in treating repetitive behaviors in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but this effect may be due to selective publication of trial results, according to a study published online April 23 in Pediatrics.

Melisa Carrasco, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of SRIs for treating repetitive behaviors in ASD.

The researchers identified 10 eligible trials: five published and five unpublished but completed. A small but significant effect of SRI for the treatment of repetitive behaviors in ASD (standardized mean difference, 0.22; z score = 2.87; P < 0.005) was found in a meta-analysis that included five published and one unpublished trial. Significant evidence of publication bias was noted in all analyses. When the effect of publication bias was adjusted for, the benefit of SRI was no longer significant (standardized mean difference, 0.12). There was no significant effect between type of medication, patient age, method of analysis, trial design, or trial duration on reported SRI efficacy.

"Meta-analysis of the published literature suggests a small but significant effect of SRI in the treatment of repetitive behaviors in ASD," the authors write. "This effect may be attributable to selective publication of trial results. Without timely, transparent, and complete disclosure of trial results, it remains difficult to determine the efficacy of available medications."

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