(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – A drug that’s been used for decades in the treatment of type 2 diabetes is proving effective in helping to control weight gain in children who are treated for autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) . “There are only two medications approved to treat the common symptoms of irritability and agitation in those with autism spectrum disorder,” said Michael Aman, PhD, lead author of the study at Ohio State and director of research at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Nisonger Center. “Those drugs, risperidone and aripiprazole, are what’s known as atypical antipsychotics and both have been shown to cause intense craving for food and, ultimately, weight gain,” he said.
But when researchers added the diabetes drug metformin to the daily regimen of those who use those medications, patients saw a considerable difference. “In just two months, the patients lost weight, appeared more fit and their appetites were much more manageable,” said Aman.
By 16 weeks, the patients lost an average of six pounds, their BMIs were reduced and their waist sizes were smaller.
“That’s important, because many of these patients are prescribed medications at a very early age to help control their irritability and agitation,” said Aman. That means they would likely face decades of using the medications and dealing with the weight gain and other side effects that come with them. “If we can use an existing drug that’s been proven safe and effective for decades to help control those issues, that would make a big difference for a lot of families.”