Pediatric Drugs

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 123–128 | Cite as

Quality of Life in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Is Known About the Effects of Pharmacotherapy?

  • Wendy N. Moyal
  • Catherine Lord
  • John T. Walkup
Leading Article


A diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), now estimated to affect one in 88 children, requires deficits in social communication and interactions, and restricted interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Almost all children with ASD have deficits in adaptive skills, many have intellectual disability, and others have co-occurring psychiatric disorders or symptoms. Thus, this complex disorder has shown to have a substantial impact on patients’ quality of life (QoL) and that of their families. Medication treatment is considered by clinicians and families to address problems with functioning due to psychiatric problems, and, as such, one-third of children and adolescents with ASD take at least one psychotropic medication and many use complementary and alternative medicine. This paper reviews what is known about the benefits and risks of psychotropic medications on the QoL of children with ASD. Although scarce, there are studies of psychiatric medications in autistic patients that include QoL measures, such as the pediatric studies of aripiprazole for irritability and one adult study of oxytocin. The aripiprazole study showed a positive effect on QoL in treated patients, as did the oxytocin study. Several other psychotropic medications are used in the treatment of children with ASD, and although information is available on the risks and benefits of each, we do not have specific data on the QoL impact of these medications. The aripiprazole and oxytocin studies exemplify how researchers can include QoL measures and use this information to guide clinicians. Additionally, we will recommend areas of further study in pharmacotherapy and QoL research in the context of treating children with ASD.


Autistic Spectrum Disorder Autism Spectrum Disorder Aripiprazole Repetitive Behavior Autistic Spectrum Disorder Child 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Conflict of Interest

Dr. Lord receives royalties from Western Psychological Services. Dr. Walkup has received free medications and matching placebo for NIMH-funded studies involving Lily and Pfizer and is currently authoring papers on NIMH-funded studies for which he received free medication from Abbott. He has consulted to Shire once regarding a research study. Dr. Walkup has received research grants, Speaker Bureau Honoraria and travel support from the Tourette Syndrome Association for talks funded by the Center for Disease Control. He has also received royalties for books on Tourette Syndrome from Oxford and Guilford Press. Dr. Walkup is an unpaid member of the following medical or Scientific Advisory Boards: Tourette Syndrome Association, Anxiety Disorders Association of America, and the Trichotillomania Learning Center. Dr Moyal has no conflicts of interest. No sources of funding were used to assist with the preparation of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wendy N. Moyal
    • 1
  • Catherine Lord
    • 1
    • 2
  • John T. Walkup
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryWeill Cornell Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Center for Autism and the Developing BrainWeill Cornell Medical College/NY Presbyterian HospitalWhite PlainsUSA

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