A recent study review concluded that risperidone (Risperdal), generally used to control symptoms of schizophrenia, might be beneficial for treating autism-related behaviors, such as irritability, repetition, and hyperactivity. Because of the few studies used in this review, the researchers examined only those 3 specific symptoms.
Reviewers arrived at their conclusions from 3 randomized, placebo-controlled studies that included 211 participants, 31 of whom were adults. Because the studies reviewed were of short duration, the long-term effects of risperidone for treating autistic behaviors are not yet known. Researchers warn, however, that side effects, such as weight gain and involuntary muscle movements, may detract from any benefits.
Susan Levy, MD, director of the Regional Autism Center at The Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa, noted, "The researchers seemed to be lukewarm toward their positive findings. From personal experience, this medication can be quite helpful for behavioral difficulties."She did, however, advise that expectations not be too high for this medication and that it is a "serious medication"for more severe difficulties. "This is not a cure for autism or the core symptoms,"she said.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.