A Pilot Feasibility Study Assessing the Combined Effects of Early Behavioral Intervention and Propranolol on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental disorder typified by differences in social communication as well as restricted and repetitive behaviors, is often responsive to early behavioral intervention. However, there is limited information on whether such intervention can be augmented with pharmacological approaches. We conducted a double-blinded, placebo-controlled feasibility trial to examine the effects of the β-adrenergic antagonist propranolol combined with early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) for children with ASD. Nine participants with ASD, ages three to ten, undergoing EIBI were enrolled and randomized to a 12-week course of propranolol or placebo. Blinded assessments were conducted at baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. The primary outcome measures focusing on social interaction were the General Social Outcome Measure-2 (GSOM-2) and Social Responsiveness Scale-Second Edition (SRS-2). Five participants completed the 12-week visit. The sample size was insufficient to evaluate the treatment efficacy. However, side effects were infrequent, and participants were largely able to fully participate in the procedures. Conducting a larger clinical trial to investigate propranolol’s effects on core ASD features within the context of behavioral therapy will be beneficial, as this will advance and individualize combined therapeutic approaches to ASD intervention. This initial study helps to understand feasibility constraints on performing such a study.
Keywords: autism; clinical trial; early intervention; propranolol.