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Guanfacine shown safe and effective in autism treatment

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Quinn Eastman

Several different drugs are used for reducing hyperactivity and impulsive behavior in children, but most of these medications have not been well-studied in autism spectrum disorder. In a new article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Lawrence Scahill, MD, from the Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and Emory University School of Medicine, and colleagues across the United States present the results of a multisite trial for extended-release guanfacine in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They report that the extended-release form of guanfacine is safe and effective for reducing hyperactivity and impulsiveness in ASD.
At five sites, children with ASD and moderate to severe hyperactivity were either given guanfacine or a placebo tablet for eight weeks, in a randomized and double-blind clinical trial. The research team collected information from parents and measured each child’s overall response. After eight weeks of treatment, extended release guanfacine was superior to placebo for decreasing hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Guanfacine was originally developed to reduce blood pressure in adults. The extended release product, which is given once a day, has been tested in children and is approved for the treatment of ADHD. This was the largest study of guanfacine in children with ASD.  
Based on these results, the team suggests that monitoring of blood pressure and pulse is important particularly in the early stages of taking guanfacine. The trial results suggest that, as in ADHD, extended-release guanfacine is a safe and effective treatment for hyperactivity and impulsiveness in ASD.

Marcus Autism Center
Marcus Autism Center is a not-for-profit organization and an affiliate of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta that treats more than 5,700 children with autism and related disorders a year. As one of the largest autism centers in the U.S. and one of only three National Institutes of Health Autism Centers of Excellence, Marcus Autism Center offers families access to the latest research, comprehensive evaluations and intensive behavior treatments. With the help of research grants, community support and government funding, Marcus Autism Center aims to maximize the potential of children with autism today and transform the very nature of autism for future generations. Visit for more information.

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