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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Pharmacotherapy of Down Syndrome

December 2018 | Palumbo & McDougle - Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy


Introduction: Comorbid psychiatric disorders are common in Down syndrome (DS). Evidence for pharmacotherapy of psychiatric co-morbidity in DS is limited. 

Areas covered: This article reviews the literature on the pharmacotherapy of psychiatric conditions co-occurring with DS, including major depressive disorder (MDD), bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), psychosis, and catatonia. A section on the phenomenon of regression is included. 

Expert opinion: For MDD, we typically begin with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). For bipolar disorder, we often use carbamazepine. For psychotic symptoms, we begin with risperidone or aripiprazole. We use buspirone to treat anxiety. For obsessional slowness/OCD, we begin with an SSRI. For stereotypical repetitive behavior, we tend to use buspirone. For ADHD, we begin with guanfacine. For irritability of comorbid ASD, we use risperidone or aripiprazole. For dementia in DS, we refer to a neurologist for medical work-up and medication management. We treat catatonia-like 'regression' with lorazepam. If ineffective, we use memantine or clozapine. Electroconvulsive therapy is considered if pharmacotherapy is ineffective. We treat 'regression' with symptoms of MDD ± psychosis, with an antidepressant and an antipsychotic if needed. Randomized controlled trials of medications for comorbid psychiatric disorders in DS are warranted.

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