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Autism and SSRI’s: preliminary data but good enough for attorneys

Posted Sep 07 2011 10:05pm

Recently, an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry raised the question of whether SSRI’s (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors) might increase the risk of autism. The paper, A ntidepressant Use During Pregnancy and Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders , came from the Kaiser Permanente research group.

The study was relatively small, as you can see from the results (20 case children and 50 controls):

Results Prenatal exposure to antidepressant medications was reported for 20 case children (6.7%) and 50 control children (3.3%). In adjusted logistic regression models, we found a 2-fold increased risk of ASD associated with treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors by the mother during the year before delivery (adjusted odds ratio, 2.2 [95% confidence interval, 1.2-4.3]), with the strongest effect associated with treatment during the first trimester (adjusted odds ratio, 3.8 [95% confidence interval, 1.8-7.8]). No increase in risk was found for mothers with a history of mental health treatment in the absence of prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

But it indicated the possibility of a higher risk. Here’s the conclusion from the abstract of that paper:

Conclusion Although the number of children exposed prenatally to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in this population was low, results suggest that exposure, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of ASD. The potential risk associated with exposure must be balanced with the risk to the mother or fetus of untreated mental health disorders. Further studies are needed to replicate and extend these findings.

It is a rather guarded conclusion, with “further studies are needed…”

When CNN covered the story , they interviewed the lead author:

“This is the first study of its kind to look at the association, and the findings have to be interpreted with a lot of caution,” she says. “We can’t detect causality from one study.”

This paper came out July 4th.

Here we are, two months later, and what do I find in a recent google search? A nice big ad for attorney’s looking to build a class action lawsuit. I won’t link to the site, but here are some paragraphs from their page:

New research demonstrates that mothers who take SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants while pregnant have a greatly increased risk of having a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“Greatly increased” risk. No guarded language here. No “further studies”. No “modestly increase”.

And, there is the pain…to the parent…that should be compensated:

Having a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can be stressful, both emotionally and financially. An autistic child may require expensive treatments, therapy, and special education. This can put a high emotional and financial toll on a family with an autistic child.

America. Land of the lawsuit.

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