Clinical and neurochemical effects of fenfluramine in children with autism

B. L. Leventhal, E. H. Cook, M. Morford, A. J. Ravitz, W. Heller, D. X. Freedman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fifteen children with autism were treated with 60 mg d,1-fenfluramine (FEN) or placebo in a doubleblind A-B-A protocol followed immediately by double-blind placebo-controlled crossover administration of FEN (total duration 62 weeks). Both biochemical and clinical outcomes were examined. Biochemically, FEN led to an increase in dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) and decreases in whole-blood serotonin (5-HT), plasma norepinephrine (NE), and plasma 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol(MHPG) The decrease in whole-blood 5-HT was seen only during treatment with FEN. However, NE levels did not return to baseline as long as 8 weeks after the first FEN treatment period. Increases in DOPAC were greater during the second FEN treatment period than the first. Persistent changes in catecholamine regulation may be related to previously reported long-term effects on central nervous system 5-HT after FEN. Clinically, FEN led to a modest decrease in parent, but not teacher, ratings of hyperactivity and to a small reduction in sensorimotor abnormalities. Abnormal social and affectual responses also decreased, but this was not directly related to FEN treatment. Effects on cognition were equivocal. Hyperserotonemic subjects did not differ from normoserotonemic subjects in clinical response. Overall, no significant advantage for the use of FEN could be established.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-315
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical and neurochemical effects of fenfluramine in children with autism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this