Autism and SSRI’s: preliminary data but good enough for attorneys

8 Sep

Recently, an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry raised the question of whether SSRI’s (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors) might increase the risk of autism. The paper, Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy and Childhood Autism Spectrum Disorders, came from the Kaiser Permanente research group.

The study was relatively small, as you can see from the results (20 case children and 50 controls):

Results Prenatal exposure to antidepressant medications was reported for 20 case children (6.7%) and 50 control children (3.3%). In adjusted logistic regression models, we found a 2-fold increased risk of ASD associated with treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors by the mother during the year before delivery (adjusted odds ratio, 2.2 [95% confidence interval, 1.2-4.3]), with the strongest effect associated with treatment during the first trimester (adjusted odds ratio, 3.8 [95% confidence interval, 1.8-7.8]). No increase in risk was found for mothers with a history of mental health treatment in the absence of prenatal exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

But it indicated the possibility of a higher risk. Here’s the conclusion from the abstract of that paper:

Conclusion Although the number of children exposed prenatally to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in this population was low, results suggest that exposure, especially during the first trimester, may modestly increase the risk of ASD. The potential risk associated with exposure must be balanced with the risk to the mother or fetus of untreated mental health disorders. Further studies are needed to replicate and extend these findings.

It is a rather guarded conclusion, with “further studies are needed…”

When CNN covered the story, they interviewed the lead author:

“This is the first study of its kind to look at the association, and the findings have to be interpreted with a lot of caution,” she says. “We can’t detect causality from one study.”

This paper came out July 4th.

Here we are, two months later, and what do I find in a recent google search? A nice big ad for attorney’s looking to build a class action lawsuit. I won’t link to the site, but here are some paragraphs from their page:

New research demonstrates that mothers who take SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants while pregnant have a greatly increased risk of having a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“Greatly increased” risk. No guarded language here. No “further studies”. No “modestly increase”.

And, there is the pain…to the parent…that should be compensated:

Having a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can be stressful, both emotionally and financially. An autistic child may require expensive treatments, therapy, and special education. This can put a high emotional and financial toll on a family with an autistic child.

America. Land of the lawsuit.

10 Responses to “Autism and SSRI’s: preliminary data but good enough for attorneys”

  1. daedalus2u September 8, 2011 at 19:34 #

    The confidence intervals overlap, so this could be just a statistical fluke (what I expect).

    If anything, I would expect maternal depression all by itself to increase the incidence of autism. Maternal stress does increase the incidence of autism. I think that SSRIs might decrease the incidence of autism by treating the maternal depression. A positive association of autism with SSRI exposure in utero might be due to the effects of depression and not an effect of an SSRI.

    There are psychiatric drugs that do cause autism in utero, anticonvulsants like valproate and phenyltoin for example. Anti-folate drugs probably do too, but they also cause extremely severe other birth defects (as does thalidomide).

  2. RAJ September 14, 2011 at 17:08 #

    One of the SSRI drugs (fenfluromine) became a bio med fad in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It was promoted as a ‘cure’ for autism by Dr. Edward Ritvo who was an associate editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. His initial results were dramatic and SSRI drug fenfluramine became widely used. Clinical trials by independant laboratories found fenfluramine treatement was no more effective that placebo.

    In the mid-1990s fenfluramine was taken off the market after it was found to be associated with a high risk of heart valve defects.

    The FDA and the lawyers are the only line of defense in making drug manufacturers being held acountable for the products they over hype in the marketplace.

    • Sullivan September 14, 2011 at 17:43 #

      “The FDA and the lawyers are the only line of defense in making drug manufacturers being held acountable for the products they over hype in the marketplace.”

      Who holds the lawyers responsible for overhyping their cases? That’s the problem here. There is one study, not conclusive at all. And lawyers are getting parents to band together for a class action lawsuit.

  3. RAJ September 14, 2011 at 20:09 #

    If you go back to the Thalidomide scandal, which is also associated with a high rate of autism, you might remember that a single researcher at the FDA refused to authorize the use of Thalidomide in treating morning sickness in pregnancy in the US. FDA inspector Frances Oldham Kelsey received an award from President John F. Kennedy for blocking sale of thalidomide in the United States.

    The US was the only western country that refused to allow the sale of Thalidomide. Are you saying the children of Thalidomide in western Europe and Canada should be denied access to legal remedies for what the pharmaceutical industry did. You seem to be favoring the pharmaceutical manufacturers which is not surprising since you continue to champion the genetic inevitability of autism and nothing that a fetus or infant is exposed to could possible contribute to a disorder that is always genetically predetermined.

    • Sullivan September 14, 2011 at 20:18 #

      “Are you saying the children of Thalidomide in western Europe and Canada should be denied access to legal remedies for what the pharmaceutical industry did.”

      No. And I really have no idea how and why you could get to the point of asking that.

      Sometimes people get frustrated with your responses in the comments. This is a prime example why. Well, that and when you make snide comments then disappear when people ask you to back them up (as in the last discussion you were involved with here).

  4. Janet Parker October 3, 2011 at 16:51 #

    Listen to the Update on the Columbine School Shooting Victim Mark Taylor. Mark’s mother Donna tells her son’s story on Medical Whistleblower’s blogtalk radio show.–lingering-concerns-over-ssri-drugs

    Mark Taylor has been an advocate to remove the drug Luvox off the market. It was found that the boy that shot Mark and so many others that day was taking Luvox. The FDA had ordered a warning label about the possible violent tendencies of patients taking this drug. This drug which is a SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) causes homicidal thoughts.

  5. daedalus2u October 28, 2011 at 15:25 #

    mya, many of us in the autism community are very skeptical of lawyers pushing mass tort claims for injury based on shoddy science, or even fraudulent “science” commissioned by said lawyers (as in the Wakefield fiasco).

    Could you post links to the “recent medical research” you are basing your claims on?

    SSRIs have had enormous effects in reducing depression and suicide rates among adults and children. It would be a shame to have their therapeutic effects lost because of bad or fraudulent science being used by those trying to “win the legal lottery”.

    That is what happened to vaccines. Wakefield lied about MMR, MMR utilization rates went down, measles rates went up and people died from measles.

    If there is real medical research showing an autism-SSRI connection, please give us a link to it. If you don’t have real medical research supporting such a link, take your trolling for victims to exploit and scam elsewhere.

    Sorry to be so harsh, but I have a very low tolerance for those who would exploit the vulnerable.

    • Sullivan October 28, 2011 at 17:48 #


      posting a phone number so we can all call in and be a part of this junk lawsuit (as in the removed comment), that’s spam.

  6. daedalus2u October 28, 2011 at 15:27 #

    Thanks moderators, spam comment I was replying to already deleated.


  1. Autism Blog – Autism and SSRI's: preliminary data but good enough … | My Autism Site | All About Autism - September 8, 2011

    […] Original post: Autism Blog – Autism and SSRI's: preliminary data but good enough … […]

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