Overview: To determine if GEXR can reduce symptoms of oppositional behavior, anxiety, repetitive behavior, and sleep disturbance in children with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD symptoms
Conclusion: After 8 weeks of therapy with GEXR, oppositional behavior decreased by 44% compared to 12% in placebo. Repetitive behavior decreased by 24%. Sleep habits did not improve and GEXR was not superior to placebo for anxiety, although anxiety was low before treatment.
In a prior report, we showed that extended-release guanfacine (GEXR) is safe and effective for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) accompanied by ADHD symptoms. Here, we examine the impact of GEXR on oppositional behavior, anxiety, repetitive behavior, and sleep disturbance. Sixty-two subjects with ASD (53 boys, 9 girls; ages 5-14 years) were randomly assigned to GEXR (n = 30) or placebo (n = 32) for 8 weeks. Outcomes include the Home Situation Questionnaire-Modified for ASD (HSQ-ASD), Anxiety scale of the Child and Adolescent Symptom Inventory (CASI), Children's Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale-Modified for ASD (CYBOCS-ASD), and Children's Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ). A repeated measures linear mixed model was used to determine the effects of treatment group and time on HSQ scores. For other measures, change from baseline was evaluated with Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA).After 8 weeks of treatment, parent ratings of oppositional behavior on the HSQ declined by 44% (per item mean from 3.4 to 1.9) in the GEXR group compared to 12% (from 3.3 to 2.9) for placebo (p = 0.004). Repetitive behavior on the CYBOCS-ASD showed a significantly greater decline in GEXR-treated participants compared to placebo (24% vs. <1%, p = 0.01). No group differences were observed on CASI Anxiety or CSHQ (p = 0.64 and 0.75, respectively). GEXR was effective in reducing oppositional behavior and, more modestly, repetitive behavior. GEXR was not superior to placebo for anxiety, though baseline anxiety ratings were low. GEXR did not significantly improve sleep habits. Future studies could focus on repetitive behavior or anxiety, symptoms with limited treatment options.