For a parent, it’s difficult to imagine a more distressing disease than autism, nor one that has caused more of an outcry for a remedy given its dramatic increase in diagnosis since the 1980s. Autism is a neural development disorder, greatly impairing the sufferer’s ability to communicate or interact socially. It affects the way nerve cells in the brain and their synapses connect and organize, often displaying signs before the age of two, robbing a child of normal parental or peer relations.
There is a strong genetic basis to autism, but the exact nature of the mechanism is unclear. A variety of external influences have been proposed as contributors, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and even childhood vaccines, but nothing has been proven. Evidence suggests that the brain is altered soon after conception, causing a number of things to occur, some of which could be affected by environmental factors. It is known that the brains of autistic children often grow faster immediately after birth, later slowing to normal or subnormal rates. But autism is increasingly believed to be a complex disorder involving multiple causes.
Whatever the source, the disease is known to strike just over half of 1% of the general population, and is four times more common in males than females. Although the number of people diagnosed with autism has greatly increased in the past few decades, it is not clear whether this reflects actual prevalence or simply changes in diagnostic practice. Most importantly, there is no known preventative or cure. Psychological and behavioral based interventions may help, but there is little hard evidence to support such treatments.
Although no currently available medication relieves autism’s core social and communication impairments, there are a number of medications used to treat some of the symptoms associated with autism, such as antidepressants, stimulants, and antipsychotics, but individual response to such drugs can vary greatly. Below are some of the publicly traded pharmaceutical companies currently producing drugs for treating autism.
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) – Risperdal is an antipsychotic medication used to treat autistic disorders, specifically irritability common in autistic children and teenagers. Risperdal is the only FDA approved drug specifically cited as a treatment for autism, but is the subject of much controversy as to its effectiveness and debate over giving children antipsychotic medication.
Eli Lilly & Company (NYSE: LLY) – Prozac, the popular antidepressant, is used for both depression and obsessive compulsive disorder in autistic children over the age of 7.
Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) – Ritalin, the well-known psychostimulant drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, has also been used to treat autism symptoms, and is now commonly available in time release form.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NASDAQ: TEVA) – Adderall XR is another extended-release drug used to help with attention and focus problems in people with autism, and is also produced by Shire plc (SHPGY).
Cellceutix Corporation (OTCBB: CTIX) is an up-and-coming company that perhaps offers the greatest and most recent hope in the treatment of autism with its compound, KM-391. This compound, unlike all of the other treatments, is 100% novel, designed to go after the core issues of autism, not just the resulting symptoms. Animal tests have shown a significant increase in serotonin uptake and increases in brain plasticity compared to controls, resulting in both physical and behavioral changes. The company is expediting further testing based upon initial research and strong public response. In addition to this very important development for the potential treatment of autism, Cellceutix is approaching phase 1 clinical trials for KevetrinTM, a promising compound for the treatment of drug-resistant cancers.
The company’s success in the field of autism, and also cancer, can be largely attributed to the fact that officers and advisors include leading pioneers in the fields of genetics and cancer. Cellceutix is now being visited by major companies in the world of pharmaceuticals and finance.
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