Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by social and language deficits and repetitive behaviors and interests. Irritability/aggression is a significant co-morbid symptom in this population, which greatly impacts burden of care. This study examined the effect of divalproex sodium for irritability / aggression in children and adolescents with ASD.
This was a 12 week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. All efficacy measures were obtained by an independent evaluator blinded to randomization condition and side effects. Fifty five subjects signed consent and 27 were randomized in a 1:1 fashion (mean age 9.46±2.46, mean non verbal IQ 63.3±23.9). Two subjects from the active group and one subject from the placebo group discontinued the study due to either lack of efficacy or side effects (increased irritability).
The primary outcome measures were Aberrant Behavior Checklist-Irritability subscale and Clinical Global Impression-Improvement, focused on irritability. 62.5% of divalproex subjects vs. 9% of placebo subjects were responders (CGI-irritability OR:16.7, Fisher’s exact p=0.008). A statistically significant improvement was also noted on the ABC-Irritability subscale (p=0.048). There was a trend for the responders to have higher valproate blood levels than the non-responders.
This study suggests efficacy of divalproex for the treatment of irritability in children and adolescents with ASD. Larger sample follow-up studies are warranted.