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ADHD drugs don't raise heart disease risk in young

Tuesday November 1, 2011
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medications do not increase the risk for heart disease or myocardial infarction in children and young adults, according to a study of 1.2 million patients taking drugs including Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta and Strattera.

The researchers said the study, published Nov. 1 on the website of the New England Journal of Medicine, is the largest ever to examine potential risks posed by drugs to treat ADHD.

"It should be reassuring that we found no evidence that these drugs increase the risk of serious cardiovascular events on a population basis," said study author William Cooper, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

"However, each child is unique, so families and providers need to work together to make informed decisions about the best options for their children. This is especially true for children who have any chronic health conditions or special health needs."

Cooper and colleagues reviewed medical records from four health plans for more than 1.2 million children and young adults ages 2 to 24. Data collected from 1998 through 2005 were examined for serious cardiovascular events including sudden cardiac death, myocardial infarction and stroke. The researchers compared users of ADHD medications and their health records with individuals who were not using ADHD medications.

Over the seven-year period, the researchers documented 81 cases of serious heart problems, or about three cases per 100,000. There was no significant increase in risk of these events for patients who used ADHD medications compared with those who did not, according to Cooper.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a black-box advisory in 2006, linking ADHD medications and potential risk of heart complications. In 2008, the American Heart Association reviewed existing research and concluded that it was reasonable for physicians to obtain an electrocardiogram before prescribing ADHD medications.

"We hope that the study will provide evidence to guide future recommendations for whether children without a history of heart problems should be tested before starting ADHD medications," Cooper said.

The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Effective Health Care program and the FDA. To read the study, visit http://bit.ly/ufSBZ4.

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