Biased Studies Behind Autism Drugs

Doctors’ belief that certain drugs, such as popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), that are used to treat repetitive behaviors in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in kids with autism may be based on incomplete information, according to a new review of published and unpublished research.

For their analysis, Carrasco, a researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and her colleagues examined PubMed and ClinicalTrials.gov for randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trials — considered the gold standard in medical research — supporting the use of SSRIs and similar antidepressants in children with autism.

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.”

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