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Case Study: Autism Spectrum Disorders - Public awareness and physician detailing will drive market growth



To date, only two products have gained approval for the treatment of ASDs; Risperdal (risperidone; Johnson & Johnson) and Abilify (aripiprazole; Bristol-Myers Squibb/Otsuka Pharmaceuticals) are both approved in the US for the treatment of irritability associated with autistic disorder.

Features and benefits

  • Examination of key recommendations contained in published treatment guidelines for the management of ASDs.
  • Overview of the treatment pathway and identification of three key points of influence that may be targeted by pharmaceutical companies.
  • Discussion of key opportunities and threats facing existing and prospective players in the autism spectrum disorders market.


ASDs are a complex spectrum of disorders, largely heterogeneous in etiology and symptomatology. Increasing public awareness of the milder symptoms of the disorders would serve to aid earlier recognition and presentation. In addition, increasing physician education in relation to the use of validated screening tools would aid earlier diagnosis.

Given that only two products are approved in the US for one of the behavioural symptoms of ASDs, physicians largely rely on off-label prescribing for the majority of symptoms. With few marketing strategies currently employed, primary care physician detailing has the potential to boost product uptake in the ASDs market.

Targeting the core symptoms of ASDs represents a "high-risk, high-reward" strategy given the heterogeneity of patient presentation and unknown etiologies, yet high population base. Meanwhile, the traditional route into the ASDs market - targeting of individual symptoms - represents a "low-risk, low-reward" strategy.

Your key questions answered

  • What do current treatment guidelines recommend in relation to pharmacological treatment of ASDs?
  • What is the current typical treatment pathway for patients with ASDs? Where are the key points of influence for market players?
  • Which segment of the ASDs population offers the greatest commercial potential to developers?
  • What actions can pharmaceutical companies take in order to maximize the uptake of products indicated for the treatment of ASDs?
  • Which factors pose the greatest threat to the commercial potential of products indicated for the treatment of ASDs?

Table of Contents


  • Catalyst
  • Summary


  • Update details: April 2012
  • Strategic scoping and focus
  • Datamonitor key findings
  • Related reports


  • Introduction
  • Treatment guidelines for autism spectrum disorders
    • Treatment should be individualized and systematically monitored
    • Pharmacological treatment is considered an adjunct to behavioral and psychological intervention
    • Published treatment guidelines are based on mixed clinical trial data and focus on pediatric patients
  • Treatment pathway
    • First point of influence: increase public awareness in order to drive up patient presentation
    • Second point of influence: improved primary care physician education will aid earlier diagnosis and intervention
    • Third point of influence: physician detailing will boost product potential
  • Opportunities and threats
    • Despite increasing competition, growing industry interest will be beneficial for new market entrants
    • Key opportunities
    • Key threats


  • Journal papers
  • Websites
  • Datamonitor reports


  • Contributing experts
  • Conferences attended
  • Report methodology


  • Table: Treatment recommendations for behavioral symptoms of autism spectrum disorders from a selection of guidelines, 2012
  • Table: Summary of key opportunities and threats within the autism spectrum disorders market, 2011


  • Figure: Autism spectrum disorder patient care pathway in the seven major markets, 2012
  • Figure: Comparison of incentives conferred by orphan product policies across the US, EU, and Japan, 2012
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