The purpose of this article is to focus on the difference between prescription medications given to children with autism spectrum disorders versus children in the general population. Published in February 2016, this article focuses on a study that was conducted during the years 2007-2010. This study was a cross-sectional study of ambulatory prescription fills from Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.
Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASDs, affect more children than we may think. In fact, during this study, there were 13,100 children diagnosed with ASD, compared to the 936,721 children without ASD diagnosis. That means that about 1 in every 71 children is diagnosed with ASD. Also, along with the ASD diagnosis comes prescription medications. Furthermore, this study showed that children with ASDs consume more prescription drugs than the general pediatric population.
The overall prescription fill rate was about 4-fold higher in children with ASD compared to the children without ASD. First, psychotropic use among children with ASD was 9-fold higher than the general population rate. The children with ASD made up about 2% of the pediatric population, but received a little over 15% of the psychotropics being prescribed to those pediatric patients. Next, nonpsychotropic drug use was also higher in the population with ASD, particularly in those children age 3 or younger. Furthermore, antibiotic use was 2-fold higher and antacid use was nearly 5-fold higher than the general population.
This increase in drug use was not only observed in the community settings, but also seen in the hospital settings. Antacid and alpha-agonist uses in hospital settings were about 3-fold higher in the ASD population, and benzodiazepines reached nearly 4-fold higher for the ASD population in the hospital setting.
As you can see, autism spectrum disorders really affect the medication use in the pediatric population. There is an overall increase in psychotropic and nonpsychotropic prescription medications in the ASD population, followed by an increase in other prescription drugs as well. There is still more research to be done in this category; however, the correlation is shown relating ASD with prescription drug use as compared to the general population.
Prescription Use among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Northern New England: Intensity and Small Area Variation. House, Samantha A. et al. The Journal of Pediatrics , Volume 169 , 277 – 283.e2