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Professor Pushes Prozac for Autistic Children in the UK

Posted Aug 24 2008 5:04pm

Professor Eric Hollander, chairman of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is recommending that more doctors in the UK consider prescribing drugs known as SSRI's, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, including fluoxetine, or Prozac, for autistic children as part of an overall treatment program.

The SSRIs are aimed at reducing anxiety and disruptive behaviors. The article Autistic children 'should be given Prozac to control their symptoms at appears to reference Dr. Hollander as stating that 37% of children in the US are currently taking SSRIs; many more than in the UK. Dr. Hollander claims that clinical trials with autistic children at low doses have shown improvements such as "fewer "endless ritual" behaviours, less anxiety and better social interaction " Recruitment of children for a "phase three" clinical trial is currently under way.

With respect to potential conflicts of interest the Checkbiotech article notes that in 2006, Neuropharm acquired the rights to develop fluoxetine for use in autism from the Mount SinaiSchool and that Professor Hollander is a consultant to the company.

I am not opposed to the use of medications in treating autism or symptoms of autism although we have never resorted to their use for Conor. I do believe that considerable care and caution must be exercised before their use. There is little discussion in the Checkbiotech article of possible negative effects of Prozac and other SSRI's on autistic children. The popular media and internet are full of articles alleging serious harmful side effects of Prozac. As a matter of intuition, and based on my son's own sensitivity to various environmental elements, I suspect that autistic children may be more vulnerable to any side effects that may be presented by Prozac and other SSRI use.

I also find it a little curious that a consultant for the company developing Prozac for use with autistic children is recommending greater use of Prozac for autistic children in the UK. This push is being made before completion of clinical trials. It is being pushed before assessment of the trial results by independent objective experts. How does Professor Hollander know that such products are effective and safe for autistic children before the studies are complete?

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