Good news emerges from a new study that shows that children taking medications for ADHD does not increase the risk for heart trouble. The stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder do not increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes or sudden death, U.S. researchers said on Monday, October 31, 2011. Researchers believe this should come as a relief to the many parents that are often placed in the position to give their child this medication.
ADHD is one of the most common child mental disorders, affecting around 3 to 5 percent of children globally.
Children with ADHD are excessively restless, impulsive and easily distracted, and often have trouble at home and in school. There is no cure, but the symptoms can be kept in check by a combination of behavioral therapy and medication.
In the United States, some 2.7 million children have prescriptions for ADHD drugs including Novartis’ Ritalin or methylphenidate and Focalin; Johnson & Johnson’s Concerta, Shire’s Adderall and Vyvanse and Eli Lilly’s Strattera.
Some estimates have placed usage of ADHD drugs as high as 10% among 10 year old American boys, and many experts believe that the drugs are often prescribed to individuals for whom the benefits do not outweigh the risks associated with the medications.
For years, healthcare professionals have warned of a link between stimulant drugs meant to treat ADHD, such as Concerta, Adderal XR, and Ritalin, and heart problems like cardiac arrest.
In 2007, mounting evidence led the FDA to require more stringent warning labels on the medications, highlighting the possible link between ADHD drugs and increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and risk of sudden death for those with cardiovascular problems.
Concerns increased following a 2009 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry that suggested there was a link between the side effects of Ritalin and other ADHD drugs and sudden cardiovascular problems. However, the study’s ultimate findings were inconclusive due to several limitations.
The findings of this new FDA-funded study on ADHD drugs and cardiovascular risk was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, about four years after the agency began expressing concerns over signs that there may be a link.
Researchers involved with the new study said that there was a slim chance that there was a doubling of the risk of serious cardiovascular events, but the normal rate of incidence is so small that even doubling it resulted in an extremely low risk.
Researchers studied the medical records of more than 1 million children and young adults aged 2 to 24 who were taking or had taken stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall and found no sign of increased risk of heart problems.
The researchers compared current users of ADHD drugs to both children who were not taking any ADHD drugs and former users of ADHD drugs and found no correlation between cardiovascular events and whether someone used the medications.
“We don’t see any evidence of increased risk,” said Dr. William Cooper of Vanderbilt University, who did the study.
A similar study published earlier this year by University of Pennsylvania researchers in the medical journal Pediatrics came to the same conclusions.
With as commonly diagnosed as this disorder is nowadays, I am certain this is certainly some good news for many concerned parents!