Could this new autism drug improve social skills in children?

Scientists from Stamford University have recently revealed that a new drug has successfully improved social skills in both adults and children with autism.

According to the NHS, an estimated one per cent of the UK population have autism (700,000). While there is currently no cure for autism, there are many skills and coping strategies that children can learn at an early age that can have a lifetime of relevance.

At the moment, the licenced medication for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) does not address core symptoms, such as problems with social communication and repetitive behaviours. Whereas, this new molecular approach has proven to help people with the disorder empathise with others.

In the trial, 17 children between the ages of six and 12 were given high intranasal doses of a drug called balovaptan for four weeks.

Based on reports from the children’s parents, the authors found the children treated showed enhanced social behaviours compared to the other 13 who were given a placebo.

The treated children displayed improvements in social communication as evaluated by clinicians.

“They were also better able to interpret the emotional and mental states of others and recognise faces in laboratory tests – Vasopressin treatment also reduced other ASD symptoms such as anxiety and was well-tolerated by the subjects,” the authors wrote.

A final trial stage involving a larger number of patients is now necessary before the drug could be licensed for people with ASD.

Despite there not being a cure for the disorder, researchers have indicated that earlier therapy in the form of social and communication coaching can have a disproportionately beneficial effect in children with autism.