Quality statement 6: Treating the core features of autism: medication

Quality statement

People with autism are not prescribed medication to address the core features of autism.

Rationale

Drug treatments have been shown to be ineffective in addressing the core features of autism. They also carry significant potential risks.

Quality measures

Structure

Evidence of local arrangements to ensure that people with autism are not prescribed medication to address the core features of autism.

Data source: Local data collection.

Process

The proportion of people with autism who are prescribed medication to address the core features of autism.

Numerator – The number of people in the denominator who are prescribed medication to address the core features of their autism.

Denominator – The number of people with autism.

Data source: Local data collection. NICE clinical audit tool: Autism in children and young people. NICE clinical audit tool: Autism in adults: biomedical interventions, includes an audit standard on the use of biomedical interventions for the core features of autism.

What the quality statement means for service providers, health and social care practitioners, and commissioners

Service providers work with their clinical staff to ensure that medication is not prescribed to address the core features of autism.

Health and social care practitioners ensure that they do not prescribe medication to address the core features of autism, and consider other treatments such as psychosocial interventions.

Commissioners ensure that they commission services in which staff do not prescribe medication to address the core features of autism, and that other treatments, such as psychosocial interventions, are available.

What the quality statement means for service users and carers

People with autism are not prescribed medication to treat the main signs of autism.

Source guidance

  • Autism: the management and support of children and young people on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 170), recommendation 1.3.2

  • Autism: recognition, referral, diagnosis and management of adults on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 142), recommendations 1.4.13, 1.4.16, 1.4.21 and 1.4.22

Definitions of terms used in this quality statement

Medication not recommended for the core features of autism

This includes:

  • antipsychotics

  • antidepressants

  • anticonvulsants

  • drugs designed to improve cognitive functioning (for example, cholinesterase inhibitors).

It should be noted that statement 8 in this quality standard refers to populations for which, in certain circumstances, medication may be appropriate for the short-term treatment of challenging behaviour.

[Adapted from Autism: the management and support of children and young people on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 170) recommendation 1.3.2 and Autism: recognition, referral, diagnosis and management of adults on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 142), recommendations 1.4.13, 1.4.16, 1.4.21, and 1.4.22].

Core features of autism

The core features of autism are described as qualitative differences and impairments in reciprocal social interaction and social communication, combined with restricted and stereotyped interests and activities, and rigid and repetitive behaviours.

[Adapted from Autism: The management and support of children and young people on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 170]