One of the most common drugs for autism is no better than a sugar pill, researchers have discovered.
Celexa (citalopram) doesn't prevent repetitive behaviour problems in autistic children, researchers conclude after testing it against a placebo, or sugar pill. Their findings also cast doubt on the drug's effectiveness in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
The researchers believe that parents may be better off stopping the medication. Although the drug is no better than a placebo, it does come with side effects, and so the risk outweighs the benefits of continuing treatment.
A research team from Seattle's Children's Hospital tested the drug on 149 children and adolescents aged between five years and 17 who had autism, Asperger's, or some developmental disorder. After 12 weeks, 32 per cent of the children taking citalopram showed improvements, but so did 34 per cent of those given a placebo.
(Source: Archives of General Psychiatry, 2009; 66: 583).