Although it is only one of many drugs used to treat ADHD, Ritalin has been under fire for years – partially because it some parents think it is overprescribed by doctors who are quick to diagnose a normal, energetic child as having attention deficit syndrome attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Others have criticized the ADHD drug for its propensity to be abused by teens as a recreational stimulant drug. Now these detractors have another reason to call for a halt on the overprescribing of ADHD drugs like Ritalin: Death.
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry recently discusses the risks from stimulant medications used to treat ADHD in children. The study was funded by the FDA and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and compared the use of stimulant medications, such as the active ingredients in Ritalin and Concerta, in 564 children with ADHD VS a control group of healthy children who died in car accidents. The study found that there may be an association between the use of stimulant medications and sudden death in otherwise healthy children.
Of all the unexplained deaths in children whose medical records were used in the study, the researchers found that 1.8 percent of the group (10 children), had been prescribed stimulant medication. This was compared with only two cases of stimulant use, or 0.4 percent, among healthy children who had died in motor vehicle accidents.
In response to the study, the FDA released the following statement:
“Given the limitations of this study’s methodology, the FDA is unable to conclude that these data affect the overall risk and benefit profile of stimulant medications used to treat ADHD in children. FDA believes that this study should not serve as a basis for parents to stop a child’s stimulant medication. Parents should discuss concerns about the use of these medicines with the prescribing healthcare professional. Any child who develops cardiovascular symptoms (such as chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting) during stimulant medication treatment should immediately be seen by a doctor.
FDA is continuing its review of the strengths and limitations of this and other epidemiological studies that evaluate the risks of stimulant medications used to treat ADHD in children. FDA and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality are sponsoring a large epidemiological study that will provide further information about the potential risks associated with stimulant medication use in children. The data collection for this study will be complete later in 2009.” – FDA Safety Review
We will bring more news as this story develops, but it is important to know that the study authors and the FDA are urging parents not to overreact. Before taking your child off medication for ADHA you should consult with your physician to determine if that is an appropriate action to take.
Below are some of the ADHD medications that may be affected by this study:
Focalin, Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate HCl ); Dexedrine, Dexedrine Spansules, Dextroamphetamine ER, Dextrostat (dextroamphetamine sulfate); Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate); Desoxyn (methamphetamine); Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate CD, Metadate ER, Methylin, Methylin ER, Ritalin, Ritalin-LA, Ritalin-SR (methylphenidate); Adderall, Adderall XR (mixed salts amphetamine); Cylert (pemoline) and generics.