Psychotropic drug use in people with autism is high

By Rahul Khanna, PhD
School of Pharmacy, The University of Mississippi

Over the past few decades, the use of prescription drugs, especially psychotropic drugs, has increased among individuals with autism.

What did you do in your research?
This study provided updated patterns and estimates of psychotropic drug use among individuals with autism enrolled in a state Medicaid program. Costs associated with drug use were also studied. We used 2007 Mississippi (MS) Medicaid fee-for-service (FFS) program administrative claims data for this study. Study sample included all individuals less than 65 years of age who were enrolled with the state Medicaid program, and had a diagnosis of autism during the study year.

What did you find out?
Two-thirds (~66%) of the individuals with autism had received psychotropic drugs during the study year. Majority of the individuals with autism were taking anti-psychotics (~39%) or/and CNS stimulants (~32%) followed by anti-depressants (20%), and others. The total cost for the psychotropic drugs paid for by the state Medicaid was ~$2 million during the study year. Adolescents and young adults (aged 11 to 21 years) were twice as likely to have prescription for psychotropic drug as compared to children (≤10 years old) with autism. Whites were more likely to have a prescription for psychotropic drugs than blacks.

What are the take-home messages?
There is a high use of psychotropic drugs in individuals with autism. There is an urgent need to study the side-effect profile of these drugs in this population.

To learn more about these findings contact
Rahul Khanna.

Full Journal Article
Khanna, R., Jariwala, K. and West-Strum, D. (2013). Use and cost of psychotropic drugs among recipients with autism in a state Medicaid fee-for-service programme. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 57(2), 161-171.