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Celexa's risks detailed in autism study

Associated Press / June 2, 2009
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CHICAGO - An antidepressant that is among the most popular kinds of medicine used for treating autism did not work for most children and caused nightmares and other side effects, according to researchers.

Results showed risks with Celexa outweighed any benefits in the largest published study of medication versus dummy pills for autism, said the study's lead author, Dr. Bryan King, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Seattle Children's Hospital and the University of Washington medical school.

The drug is not approved for treating autism. However, many doctors have prescribed it, thinking it might help prevent repetitive behaviors such as twirling and head-banging, which are hallmark autism symptoms.

In the autism study, those on Celexa were more than twice as likely to develop repetitive behaviors, as well as other side effects including sleep problems and hyperactivity. The study was published yesterday in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Celexa is in a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, which are among the most used medicines for autism.