Negative Clinical Trial Results Not Published as anti-depressants are useless for autistic childrenby THEUNHIVEDMIND, theunhivedmind.com
April 24th 2012
Anti-depressants may NOT help autistic children: Study finds negative clinical trial results not published
Study found little evidence that anti-depressants could treat repetitive behaviours in autistic children
Doctors’ belief that certain antidepressants can help to treat repetitive behaviors in children with autism may be based on biased information, according to a new review.
The drugs, which include popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are sometimes used to treat repetitive behaviors in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
‘The main issue to emphasize is that SSRIs are perhaps not as effective at treating repetitive behaviors as previously thought. Further research will help confirm these findings in the long run,’ said study leader Melisa Carrasco from the University of Michigan.
The researchers examined PubMed and ClinicalTrials.gov for randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled trials – considered the gold standard in medical research.
Their search yielded 15 trials on the use of antidepressants in children with autism.
Five studies were excluded because they did not meet the researchers’ criteria. Another five were listed as completed but never published.
Carrasco’s team emailed the researchers on the unpublished trials to request their data. One researcher complied and sent the findings.
Of the six studies, three showed a benefit from SSRIs and three – including the unpublished study – reported some or no benefit.
Overall, the 365 participants in the six studies showed a small response to the SSRIs, but that association disappeared when the researchers accounted for the studies that were completed but never published.
When only positive findings get published, and negative ones never see the light of day, the evidence on a topic is said to be subject to ‘publication bias.’
As a result of including the unpublished data, ‘The research made it clear that the effects of (serotonin receptor inhibitors) treatment of (autism spectrum disorders) are considerably overrated,’ Carrasco and colleagues wrote in the journal Pediatrics.
She told Reuters Health, however, that the new study does not mean the drugs are not useful for treating other conditions related to autism spectrum disorders.
‘There is compelling data available, for example, in regards to their use in treating anxiety in autism, and there may still be potential… in treating additional aspects of autism as well,’ she said.
The new study also had limitations, including there being limited data on the topic and a lack of a unified system to measure repetitive behaviors.
In an accompanying commentary, Dr Scott Denne, at the Indianapolis University School of Medicine, wrote that the paucity of data ‘results in physicians being unable to make rational informed decisions’ about the benefits and risks of using SSRIs to treat children with autism.
As a result of the 1997 FDA Modernization Act, ClinicalTrials.gov was created as by the United States’ National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The website serves as a listing of trials involving human subjects.
In a separate study also published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found the results for the majority of clinical trials involving children are unavailable.
Specifically, of 2,400 completed studies involving children and registered on ClinicalTrials.gov between 2000 and 2010, only 29 per cent were ever published. On average, they were not published until two years after the study was completed.
Those researchers also found that only 53 per cent of studies funded through the NIH were ever published.
‘The problem is that existing clinical research policy does not guarantee availability of the results of all clinical studies and leads to biased health care decisions based on highly selected and incomplete information,’ said the study’s lead author, Dr Tatyana Shamiliyan at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
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