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Vanderbilt enrolling children with autism in medication-related weight gain study

Aug. 15, 2014, 3:27 PM


Vanderbilt University is one of four sites in the United States and Canada to enroll children with autism in a study to examine weight gain commonly experienced while taking antipsychotic medication.

Medications prescribed in up to 20 percent of children with autism, including Risperdal, Abilify, Seroquel and Zyprexa, often cause substantial weight gain and put children at greater risk for developing diabetes.

This new study will examine if the investigational drug metformin is safe and helpful in reducing weight gain for children with autism who are taking anti-psychotic medication.

“Right now, parents are placed in the difficult position of deciding between their children’s physical health or losing the beneficial effects of the medication on behavior,” said Kevin Sanders, M.D., assistant professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Vanderbilt. “This is a critical study that has the potential to improve the lives of children with autism, a disorder that now affects an estimated one in 68 children.”

Recent studies have shown metformin to be the most effective approach to weight gain in adults and is a medication most commonly used to treat diabetes. While metformin has been studied in adults, there is limited information on its effectiveness in children, and it has never been studied in children with autism, who often respond differently to medication.

Participants in this study will receive treatment at no cost.

To participate in this study, contact Sarah Marler, M.A., at (615) 936-3288 or

This study is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration as part of the Autism Intervention Research Network Physical Health. Other study sites include Nationwide Children’s Hospital at Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital at the University of Toronto.

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