The antidepressant drug fluoxetine – best known to the public as Prozac – has been shown for the first time in a study to produce an improvement in the functioning and a decrease in repetitive behaviors in a significant number of adults suffering from autism spectrum disorders.

The research, conducted by Dr. Eric Hollander – chairman of the advisory council of the International Center for Autism Research and Education (Icare4autism) – is about to be published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Fluoxetine, developed by scientists from Eli Lilly and Company in the early 1970s and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1977, was put on the market in 1987 and went off patient in 2001.

Since then, generic forms of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor have been marketed as well.

The International Center, established by Dr. Joshua Weinstein in New York seven years ago, is building a Global Autism Center on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The center will enable the organization to convene and support an interdisciplinary global community of researchers, educators and advocates; drive the research needed to discover the causation of autism and its biologic and environmental causes; and create opportunities for powerful collaborations that will bring better methods of detection and treatment to patients and their families all over the world.

Hollander shows in his journal article that the widely used antidepressant also alleviates repetitive behaviors in a significant number of autistic adults. The study, funded by the FDA’s Orphan Products Division, will be published this month in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the official journal of the American Psychiatric Association. Its findings have important clinical implications.

Hollander, director of the autism spectrum program of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, said on Wednesday: “While research on medications for the core features of autism spectrum disorders is still in the early stages, successful treatments could greatly improve the daily lives of patients and their families.”

Weinstein, who is CEO of Icare4autism, hailed the study as “groundbreaking work that will lead to novel therapeutic interventions with the potential to help the vast and rapidly growing population of adults with autism all over the world.”

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger