Objective: The objective of this review was to examine prevalence and patterns of psychopharmacotherapy in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Method: A systematic literature search in PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO was performed, including articles published up to November 18, 2015.
Results: A total of 47 studies (data collection: 1976-2012), encompassing >300 000 individuals with ASD, were included. The prevalence of psychopharmacotherapy ranged from 2.7% to 80% (median (overall): 45.7%; median (children): 41.9%; median (adults): 61.5%), with psychotropic polypharmacy occurring in 5.4-54% (median: 23.0%). Regarding drug classes, antipsychotics were most frequently used, followed by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication and antidepressants. Both older age and psychiatric comorbidity were associated with higher prevalences of psychopharmacotherapy and psychotropic polypharmacy. There were no time trends in psychopharmacotherapy prevalence observable.
Conclusion: Despite a lack of pharmacological treatment options for ASD core symptoms, the prevalence of psychopharmacotherapy and polypharmacy in ASD patients is considerable, which is probably due to the treatment of non-core ASD symptoms and psychiatric comorbidities. While there is some evidence for the use of antipsychotics and ADHD medication for these indications, the use of antidepressants should be limited to selected cases.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; drug-therapy; polypharmacy; prevalence; psychotropic drugs.
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.