Publication bias: It has long been a problem in medical research. Studies that show a drug or treatment is effective are more likely to be published than studies with negative findings. As a result, the medical literature that guides how diseases and disorders are treated often provides doctors an incomplete picture of the evidence.
A case in point is the use of antidepressants to treat the repetitive behaviors -- including hoarding, tapping, head banging and strict adherence to routine -- that are a hallmark of autism.
Antidepressants are not specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating autism, but they have become the go-to drugs for trying to control some of its key symptoms. By some estimates, the drugs have been prescribed for as many as one-third of children with the diagnosis.
But do they work?
For a new analysis, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, a team of researchers from Yale and the University of Michigan searched for studies in the medical literature and on www.clinicaltrials.gov, a government website where scientists register trials before they start. In all, the team found 10 randomized, controlled clinical trials.