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Generic Drug May Ease Autism in Children

More Research Needed continued...

About 30% of the children in the study developed low potassium levels, which were reversed with supplements. Two children stopped the study because of bedwetting. One of them was taking the placebo.

At the end of the study, researchers say most parents asked to continue on the bumetanide treatment. Researchers report that 87 children are now taking the medication. Some have now been on it for as long as two years.

Researcher Yehezkel Ben-Ari, PhD, director of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Marseille, France, says the medication seems to help children with milder forms of autism spectrum disorders, like Asperger’s syndrome, the most.

Since the completion of the study, Ben-Ari has become the CEO and a major shareholder of a company that’s seeking to develop and market bumetanide as a treatment for autism.

“We don’t have any medicines that remedy autism, even if we don’t cure it. So bumetanide is an interesting and promising medication,” says Andrew Adesman, MD, chief of developmental & behavioral pediatrics at the Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. Adesman treats patients with autism, but he was not involved in the research.

Because the medication is already on the market and seems to be relatively safe, Adesman said he expects doctors and families may be tempted to try it right away.

“As difficult as it may be, families and professionals are probably best off waiting for a little bit more research,” he says.

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