ObjectiveAbnormal glutamatergic neurotransmission is implicated in the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this study, the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of the glutamatergic N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist memantine (once-daily extended-release [ER]) were investigated in children with autism in a randomized, placebo-controlled, 12 week trial and a 48 week open-label extension.
MethodsA total of 121 children 6-12 years of age with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)-defined autistic disorder were randomized (1:1) to placebo or memantine ER for 12 weeks; 104 children entered the subsequent extension trial. Maximum memantine doses were determined by body weight and ranged from 3 to 15 mg/day.
ResultsThere was one serious adverse event (SAE) (affective disorder, with memantine) in the 12 week study and one SAE (lobar pneumonia) in the 48 week extension; both were deemed unrelated to treatment. Other AEs were considered mild or moderate and most were deemed not related to treatment. No clinically significant changes occurred in clinical laboratory values, vital signs, or electrocardiogram (ECG). There was no significant between-group difference on the primary efficacy outcome of caregiver/parent ratings on the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), although an improvement over baseline at Week 12 was observed in both groups. A trend for improvement at the end of the 48 week extension was observed. No improvements in the active group were observed on any of the secondary end-points, with one communication measure showing significant worsening with memantine compared with placebo (p = 0.02) after 12 weeks.
ConclusionsThis trial did not demonstrate clinical efficacy of memantine ER in autism; however, the tolerability and safety data were reassuring. Our results could inform future trial design in this population and may facilitate the investigation of memantine ER for other clinical applications.