Background and aim
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as escitalopram are commonly used to treat patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but there are individual differences in treatment response and tolerability. CYP2C19 encodes the primary enzyme responsible for escitalopram metabolism and we investigated whether polymorphisms in CYP2C19 were related to symptoms and dosing in a pharmacogenetic study of ASD.
Participants and methods
Participants completed the Aberrant Behavior Checklist – Community Version (ABC-CV) weekly for 6 weeks. Escitalopram was initiated at a dose of 2.5 mg per day, with weekly increases to 20 mg unless intolerable side-effects occurred. Three CYP2C19 metabolizer groups, including ultrarapid, extensive, and reduced metabolizers, were examined in relation to symptom improvement and tolerated dose.
ABC-CV scores improved over the course of treatment (P<0.0001). No differences were identified in the rate of improvement across metabolizer groups for the ABC-CV irritability subscale, which was the primary outcome for clinical symptoms. There was a trend for a metabolizer group by time interaction with respect to dose (P=0.10). This interaction was driven by the linear rate of change from week 1 to study endpoint between the reduced metabolizers and ultrarapid metabolizer groups (P=0.05). Post-hoc analyses identified significant differences in the rate of dose escalation between ultrarapid metabolizers and extensive metabolizers and for ultrarapid metabolizers compared with reduced metabolizers (P’s<0.04), whereby ultrarapid metabolizers showed a slower rate of change in dose over time.
CYP2C19 ultrarapid metabolizers were associated with reduced tolerance to a fixed titration schedule of open-label escitalopram in this ASD study sample. Possible explanations may involve the altered kinetics of faster metabolizers or previously unknown activities of escitalopram metabolites.