Aripiprazole for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Irritability related to ASD has been treated with antipsychotics. Aripiprazole, a third generation atypical antipsychotic, is a relatively new drug that has a unique mechanism of action different from other antipsychotics.
Two randomized controlled trials with similar methodology have evaluated the use of aripiprazole for a duration of eight weeks in 316 children with ASD. The included trials had a low risk of bias. Although we searched for studies across age groups, only studies in children and youths were found. Meta-analysis of study results revealed a mean improvement of 6.17 points on the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) irritability subscale, 7.93 points on the ABC hyperactivity subscale, and 2.66 points in the stereotypy subscale in children treated with aripiprazole relative to children treated with a placebo. In terms of adverse side effects, children treated with aripiprazole had a greater increase in weight with a mean increase of 1.13 kg relative to placebo, and had a higher risk ratio for sedation (RR 4.28) and tremor (RR 10.26).
Evidence from two randomized controlled trials suggests that aripiprazole can be effective in treating some behavioral aspects of ASD in children. After treatment with aripiprazole, children showed less irritability, hyperactivity, and stereotypies (repetitive, purposeless actions). Notable side effects must be considered, however, such as weight gain, sedation, drooling, and tremor. Longer studies of aripiprazole in individuals with ASD would be useful to gain information on long-term safety and efficacy.