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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Wealthy nations dole out big doses of autism drugs

by  /  8 July 2014

This article is more than five years old. Autism research — and science in general — is constantly evolving, so older articles may contain information or theories that have been reevaluated since their original publication date.

Doctors in wealthy countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and Australia prescribe more medications to people with autism than do doctors in poorer countries, including Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia. The results were published 3 June in Autism Research.

A study published last year found similarly high prescription rates for people with autism in wealthy countries, including the U.S. and the U.K.

The numbers suggest that people in low-income countries do not receive adequate treatment, that those in high-income countries are being overmedicated, or both.

The researchers used the gross domestic product of each country as a proxy for individual income level, and collected data on diagnoses and prescriptions from IMS Health, a worldwide database, for the years 2007 to 2012.

The most prescribed drug is risperidone, an antipsychotic that decreases hyperactivity and repetitive behavior, and one of two drugs approved to treat symptoms of autism. Doctors also prescribe antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs in high numbers to people with autism.