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New autism treatment shows promising results in pilot study

New autism treatment shows promising results in pilot study

An antioxidant supplement has shown early promise as a potential autism therapy, according to a small pilot trial from a Stanford research team. The study will be published June 1 in Biological Psychiatry.

From a press release I wrote to explain the new findings:

The antioxidant, called N-Acetylcysteine, or NAC, lowered irritability in children with autism as well as reducing the children’s repetitive behaviors. The researchers emphasized that the findings must be confirmed in a larger trial before NAC can be recommended for children with autism.

Irritability affects 60 to 70 percent of children with autism. “We’re not talking about mild things: This is throwing, kicking, hitting, the child needing to be restrained,” said Antonio Hardan, MD, the primary author on the new study. “It can affect learning, vocational activities and the child’s ability to participate in autism therapies.”

NAC has some important potential advantages over other autism therapies. Right now, irritability in autism is often treated with second-generation antipsychotics. These drugs produce a greater decrease in irritable behaviors than the Stanford team saw with NAC, but also have severe side effects, potentially causing weight gain, involuntary motor movements and metabolic syndrome, which can lead to diabetes.

In addition, no medications exist to treat repetitive behaviors and other “core features” of autism such as social deficits and language impairment. If the findings about NAC’s effect on repetitive behaviors are replicated in larger trials, NAC will be the first drug to treat one of the disorder’s core features.

Hardan’s team is now applying for funding for a large, multi-center trial of NAC. He told me:

One of the reasons I wanted to do this trial was that NAC is being used by community practitioners who focus on alternative, non-traditional therapies. But there is no strong scientific evidence to support these interventions. Somebody needs to look at them.

Previously: New imaging analysis reveals distinct features of the autistic brain

7 Responses to “ New autism treatment shows promising results in pilot study ”

  1. adrian parry Says:

    hi i have 2 boys aged 8 and 11 who both have autisum,i have tried a lot of things for them but nothing has changed them,i was trying to find out if i could be part of this trial ,is there any chance thank you

  2. J Mondi Says:

    My 6-year old son is quite severely autistic and is greatly irritable. I have tried various medications including antipsychotics but not with much effect. Is there any way, he could be part of this trial. Thanks

  3. P K Mishra Says:

    can we see the details of the finding. we wud like to incorporate NAC in the t/t of my three and half year old autistic son and will send the result to the researcher. Pls advice. we are from Patna India.

  4. Dr Karnik Says:

    I tried NAC on many children, especially for OCD behaviors, pulling hair etc. Results are marginal. Looking forward for your long term trial results.

  5. envol Says:

    i have a autism 5 years old son, with repective behaviour,social skill lacking, an expression. therefore i am asking you if we can be a part of your trail thank you

  6. Dr. Oswal Says:

    Thank you for the informative blog. We are also doing research on autism treatment with integrative medicine at our Center in Pune, India and have seen some very exciting results –

    We would be thankful if you or other contributors can suggest avenues for further developing our research – especially working with leading research universities.

    Thank you very much.

  7. Beata Says:

    My 4 year old son is autistic.
    Is there any chance, he could be part of this trial?


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