Parents whose children are on ADHD drugs should sleep better tonight: A new study has found that stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder do not increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes or sudden death.
The study, which was conducted by Dr. William Cooper of Vanderbilt University and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, studied the medical records of more than one million children aged 2-24 who were on ADHD drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall.
“We don’t see any evidence of increased risk,” said Dr. William Cooper.
The study was one in a series of three that were commissioned by the FDA after U.S. and Canadian regulators received several reports in 2006 of heart attacks and strokes in children taking the medications.
“There was a lot of concern and confusion among families and providers about what the best approach would be to treating kids who had ADHD and who might benefit from these medicines,” Cooper said.
ADHD affects 3-5% of children throughout the world. In the United States, over 2.7 million children are on ADHD drugs, which helps alleviate symptoms in children who are excessively restless, impulsive, and easily distracted.
While the study found such few cases of heart problems in the children who were studied (just 81), there is a concern that the study might not have been large enough to detect a bigger problem.
Even if there were heart problems, Cooper said, the risk would be “extremely slight.”
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the FDA said it will continue to recommend that the drugs not be used in patients with serious heart problems, and that patients should be monitored for changes in heart rate or blood pressure.