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ID’ing Autism Medications that Cause Weight Gain

ID’ing Autism Drugs That Cause Weight Gain

Although newer pharmacological therapies for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be beneficial, some of the meds come with a “heavy” price as they are associated with weight gain and subsequent health consequences.

For the first time, however, researchers have compared five of these second generation antipsychotics (SGAs) to determine which ones are the biggest culprits.

A Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study found that patients treated with Zyprexa® (olanzapine) have the highest risk of weight gain, while Geodon (ziprasidone®) and Seroquel (quetiapine) were not associated with an increase in body mass index.

Risperdal® (risperidone) and Abilify® (aripiprazole) also resulted in weight gain, but not as great as the weight gain associated with Zyprexa® (olanzapine).

“Caregivers treating children and teens with ASD, and parents, can use this information to balance the risks and benefits of SGAs for treating irritability associated with autism spectrum disorders,” said Logan Wink, M.D., a research psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children’s and co-author of the study.

The study is published online in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.

ASD is often associated with irritability, including aggression, self-injury and severe behavioral outbursts, all of which can cause significant distress to patients, their families, schools and others. The FDA has approved several SGAs in recent years, as this class of medications has proved to be safe and often effective.

Unfortunately, health concerns, such as changes in glucose and lipid metabolism and poor cardiovascular outcomes have been among the side effects of some of these medications.

The Cincinnati Children’s researchers reviewed medical charts of 202 patients between the ages of two and 20 treated at two large subspecialty clinics. These patients were treated with one of the five SGAs studied for a maximum of four years.

“Given that this was a chart review, our results must be considered along with its limitations,” Wink said.

“We believe, however, that this study adds to the growing safety data regarding use of SGAs and lays the ground work for future controlled head-to-head analysis of SGA treatment in ASD patients.”

Source: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

ID’ing Autism Drugs That Cause Weight Gain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). ID’ing Autism Drugs That Cause Weight Gain. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 19 Jul 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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