A team of international experts at the University of Saskatchewan are meeting today to discuss developing medication guidelines for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The group of 10 wants to devise a "medical algorithm" to aid physicians in prescribing medication to FASD patients. The disorder is the result of a woman drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

"The goal is to make sure that the algorithm really helps the individual to function." - Dr. Mansfield Mela, University of Saskatchewan psychiatry professor

The idea is to examine the various complications that people with FASD face, such as inattention, difficulty planning, challenges in relational situations, and issues with mood and sleeping.

Then, the group will recommend medical guidelines instructing doctors what to prescribe "so that when a physician says to his patient, 'I need you to take this medicine,' they're going to be doing it from an informed position," Dr. Mansfield Mela, head of the psycholegal and FASD research lab at the U of S, told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

The selected medicines and any side effects will be monitored, and secondary options will be included in the algorithm should the first choice not work out.

"The goal is to make sure that the algorithm really helps the individual to function," said Mela.

No guidelines

There are currently no guidelines for treating FASD. Mela said this leads to physicians often using a "trial-and-error approach."

It also means FASD patients sometime avoid treatment because it's inadequate or due to side effects, he said.

Mela added that FASD is a relatively new diagnosis, which means the medical community hasn't yet had time to sufficiently develop guidelines for doctors to treat it.

Despite this, Mela said physicians have recognized FASD is a complex condition requiring a multidisciplinary treatment approach.

"We're very fortunate that so far our patients that are being diagnosed still have some support to ensure that they function in life," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning