Current pharmacotherapeutic approaches for the treatment of Tourette syndrome

Drugs Today (Barc). 2014 Feb;50(2):159-79. doi: 10.1358/dot.2014.50.2.2097801.


Tourette syndrome is a childhood onset neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by multiple motor and vocal tics. Although many youth experience attenuation or even remission of tics in adolescence and young adulthood, some individuals experience persistent tics which can be debilitating or disabling. The majority of patients also have one or more psychiatric comorbid disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Treatment is multimodal, including both pharmacotherapy and cognitive behavioral treatment, and requires disentanglement of tics and the comorbid symptoms. Although the only two formally approved medications in the United States are haloperidol and pimozide, these treatments are generally not used as first-line interventions due to their significant potential for adverse effects. The α-adrenoceptor agonists guanfacine and clonidine have an established evidence base for both efficacy and tolerability, and are usually recommended as initial pharmacotherapy. Atypical neuroleptics, such as aripiprazole or risperidone, are typically used if the α-adrenoceptor agonists are ineffective or intolerable. However, many other pharmacological agents reviewed in this manuscript have been studied as treatment alternatives.

Keywords: Aripiprazole; Haloperidol; Tetrabenazine; Tics; Tourette syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Tourette Syndrome / complications
  • Tourette Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Tourette Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Tourette Syndrome / psychology


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Antipsychotic Agents