Psychopharmacological prescriptions for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD): a multinational study

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2014 Mar;231(6):999-1009. doi: 10.1007/s00213-013-3263-x. Epub 2013 Sep 5.


Rationale: Previous studies on psychotropic drugs prescribing in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were from the USA or the UK. However, these studies may not be generalizable to other countries. There is a need to understand the extent of psychopharmacological prescribing for ASD treatment at a multinational level to identify areas of prescribing which lack evidence.

Methods: We used the IMS Prescribing Insights database to investigate psychotropic drugs prescribing patterns for ASD treatment in children and adults in 2010-2012. Data were obtained from Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK), South America (Mexico and Brazil), North America (Canada and USA) and Asia (Japan).

Results: North American countries have the highest prescription rates, followed by the European and South American countries. Prescribing rates were higher in children compared to adults in individual countries. The most commonly prescribed drug for ASD was risperidone in young people (except in UK and Japan). In the UK, methylphenidate (34 %) was the most commonly prescribed for young people and haloperidol (44.1 %) in Japan. In adults, the most commonly prescribed drug class was antipsychotics and particularly risperidone (thioridazine and ziprasidone were the most prescribed antipsychotics in Brazil and USA, respectively).

Conclusion: There is variation in medication prescription for people with ASD among countries, which may be attributable to diagnostic criteria, clinical guidelines or health care systems. However, there is a lack of evidence of efficacy and safety for many psychotropic drugs prescribed for people with ASD. Research is needed to bridge the evidence gaps in prescribing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / drug therapy*
  • Databases, Pharmaceutical
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Japan
  • North America
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Psychopharmacology / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychopharmacology / trends
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • South America


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Psychotropic Drugs