ADHD drugs do not increase heart problems in kids: study

Tue Nov 1, 2011 10:01am EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - 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, in a finding that should reassure millions of parents whose children take the drugs.

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.

"We don't see any evidence of increased risk," said Dr. William Cooper of Vanderbilt University, whose study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study in children is the first of three commissioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to understand the potential heart risks of the drugs after U.S. and Canadian regulators received a number of reports in 2006 of heart attacks, strokes and sudden cardiac arrest in children taking the medications.

The reports prompted several FDA advisory committee hearings on heart problems, and Health Canada temporarily suspended marketing of ADHD drugs.

The concerns also prompted the American Heart Association to issue guidelines suggesting that children who were just starting to take the drugs should be tested for potential underlying heart problems.

"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 by phone.