Research units on pediatric psychopharmacology (RUPP) Autism Network: Background and rationale for an initial controlled study of risperidone

C. J. McDougle, L. Scahill, J. T. McCracken, M. G. Aman, E. Tierney, L. E. Arnold, B. J. Freeman, A. Martin, J. J. McGough, P. Cronin, D. J. Posey, M. A. Riddle, L. Ritz, N. B. Swiezy, B. Vitiello, F. R. Volkmar, N. A. Votolato, P. Walson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


This article has reviewed the background and rationale for the choice of risperidone as the first drug to be studied by the RUPP Autism Network. Risperidone has potent effects on 5-HT and DA neuronal systems, both of which have been implicated in the pathophysiology of autism. Unlike the typical antipsychotics, haloperidol and pimozide, which have been shown to be effective for reducing many of the maladaptive behaviors associated with autism, risperidone's 5-HT2(A)/DA D2 ratio of receptor blockade appears to produce a lower risk of acute and chronic extrapyramidal side effects, as well as enhanced efficacy for the 'negative' symptoms of autism. Indirect clinical and preclinical evidence supports the use of risperidone to treat impaired social behavior, interfering repetitive phenomena, and aggression, targets of pharmacotherapy for many patients with autism. Numerous published open-label trials in children and adolescents with autism and related PDDs and one double-blind, placebo-controlled study in adults suggest that risperidone has promise for the treatment of children and adolescents with autism. Because most of these studies have been short-term, open-label trials in small samples, however, a large-scale controlled study of risperidone in children and adolescents with autism is needed to confirm these results. Finally, because it is likely that children who demonstrate short-term benefit from risperidone will remain on the medication indefinitely, the longer-term effectiveness and safety of risperidone in this population also needs to be determined. The design of this study and the assessments used are described separately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-224
Number of pages24
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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