Objective: To report results from a long-term prospective study of safety of haloperidol treatment and prevalence of haloperidol-related dyskinesias.
Method: Subjects were children with autism requiring pharmacotherapy for target symptoms. After baseline assessments, children received haloperidol treatment; responders requiring further treatment were considered for enrollment into the present study. Six-month haloperidol treatment periods were followed by a 4-week placebo period. The procedure was repeated if further haloperidol treatment was required. At specified times children were evaluated by using multiple instruments.
Results: Between 1979 and 1994, 118 children aged 2.3 to 8.2 years participated in the study. The mean dose of haloperidol was 1.75 mg/day. Mainly withdrawal dyskinesias (WD) developed in 40 (33.9%) children; 20 had more than one dyskinetic episode. A subgroup that remained significantly longer in the study and had a significantly higher cumulative dose of haloperidol evidenced a significantly higher incidence of WD. Occurrence rates of tardive dyskinesia (TD) and multiple episodes of TD/WD were higher among girls.
Conclusion: Female gender and pre- and perinatal complications may be involved in susceptibility to dyskinesias; greater cumulative haloperidol dose and/or longer exposure to haloperidol may increase the risk.