A review of clinical trials of oxytocin in Prader–Willi syndrome

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Purpose of review

PWS is a severe developmental disability for which there is no known treatment. The oxytocin system is currently a primary target for intervention. The aim of this article is to review the evidence for the efficacy of intranasal oxytocin in PWS.

Recent findings

To date, there have been five clinical trials of oxytocin in PWS. Four of these studies reported that oxytocin improved behaviors. However, each of these studies suffered important limitations that likely influenced the findings. For example, one study did not include a control group. Another study did not statistically analyze the effects of oxytocin on behavior. The final two studies used study-specific measures for which psychometric properties have not been assessed.


Because of these limitations, the most appropriate conclusion to draw from the existing studies is that there is currently no convincing evidence that intranasal oxytocin improves symptoms of PWS. However, this does not mean that oxytocin is not involved in PWS. Rather, it suggests that further work is needed to understand the nature of the PWS oxytocin abnormality.

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