High prescription drug use and associated costs among Medicaid-eligible children with autism spectrum disorders identified by a population-based surveillance network

Ann Epidemiol. 2012 Jan;22(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2011.10.007.


Purpose: We assessed medication use and associated costs among 8- and 15-year-old children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) identified by the South Carolina Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (SCADDM) Network.

Methods: All Medicaid-eligible SCADDM-identified children with ASD from surveillance years 2006 and 2007 were included (n = 263). Children were classified as ASD cases when documented behaviors consistent with the DSM-IV-TR criteria for autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified were present in health and education evaluation records. Medication and cost data were obtained by linking population-based and Medicaid data.

Results: All 263 SCADDM-identified children had Medicaid data available; 56% (n = 147) had a prescription of any type, 40% (n = 105) used psychotropic medication, and 20% (n = 52) used multiple psychotropic classes during the study period. Common combinations were (1) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications and an antihypertensive, antidepressant or antipsychotic; and (2) antidepressants and an antipsychotic. Multiple psychotropic classes were more common among older children. Both the overall distribution of the number of prescription claims and medication costs varied significantly by age.

Conclusions: Results confirm that medication use in ASD, alone or in combination, is common, costly, and may increase with age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / drug therapy*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prescription Drugs / economics
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • South Carolina / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Prescription Drugs