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Original Research

Treatment of Behavior Disorders in Mental Retardation: Report on Transitioning to Atypical Antipsychotics, With an Emphasis on Risperidone

Michael G. Aman, PhD, and Georges M. Gharabawi, MD, for the Special Topic Advisory Panel on Transitioning to Risperidone Therapy in Patients With Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities

Published: September 1, 2004

Article Abstract

Background: Mental illnesses are more common in people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities than in the general population. Due to the difficulty of making specific psychiatric diagnoses in these patients, the target of medication is often a behavioral symptom. For many symptoms, antipsychotic medications are effective, but the serious side effect profile of conventional antipsychotics renders their use problematic. Recent findings concerning the safety and efficacy of atypical antipsychotics for control of certain disruptive behaviors in adults and children led a Special Topic Advisory Panel to draw up guidelines for transitioning patients with specific symptoms from classical antipsychotics to risperidone and, by extrapolation, to other atypical agents.

Participants: Participants were chosen by Janssen Pharmaceutica, based on individual achievements and lifetime experience. The Special Topic Advisory Panel on Transitioning to Risperidone Therapy in Patients With Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities comprised academic clinicians with at least 10 years’ experience in the field of mental retardation and developmental disabilities. It included a clinical pharmacist, consultant pharmacists, a certified developmental disabilities nurse, psychiatrists, a family physician, and a psychologist.

Evidence: The Panel considered recent studies of the efficacy and tolerability of risperidone and other atypical antipsychotics in adults and children with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. MEDLINE searches were conducted using the name of each atypical antipsychotic and the following terms: mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and behavior disorders. Searches were conducted starting in July 2002 and done periodically through April 2004 to capture new additions to the literature. Searches were confined to English.

Guidelines Process: The Panel reviewed the available evidence, identified optimal doses and titration schedules, considered instruments and rating scales for assessing symptoms, and developed guidelines.

Conclusions: The guidelines set forth initial and target doses and titration schedules of risperidone therapy for some behavioral symptoms and provide recommendations concerning withdrawal of previous medications and for procedures and rating scales for assessing symptoms. In patients with severe retardation, the goal is often to identify specific target behaviors rather than to pursue an exact diagnosis, which may be unattainable.

Volume: 65

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