ADHD Drugs Dont Raise Kids Heart Risk
Drugs such as Ritalin and similar medicines that millions of North American children and teens take to curb hyperactivity and boost attention do not raise their risk of serious heart problems, the largest safety study of these drugs concludes. According to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the various drugs used to combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, do not increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes or sudden death.”Parents should be very reassured,” said Dr. Laurel Leslie, a paediatrician at Tufts Medical Centre in Boston who had no role in the study but served on a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel examining drugs for ADHD, or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.
More than five million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, which hampers a child’s ability to pay attention and control behaviour. Although it seems counterintuitive, stimulant medications such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta and Strattera can help these children, and about 2.7 million of them are prescribed such drugs each year. Heart attacks, strokes and sudden death were very rare and no more common in children on the drugs than in kids not taking them, the U.S. federally funded study found. That was true even for children and young adults with a higher risk of heart problems and a group doctors have long worried about when prescribing these drugs. The American Heart Association issues some controversial guidelines suggesting that children who were taking the meds for the first time should be tested for any possible heart problems.
However, isolated reports of heart attacks and strokes in kids taking the drugs caused worry, and the Canadian government curbed use of one drug in 2006. The FDA added a black box warning to some ADHD drugs, and the American Heart Association gave the controversial advice in 2008 that it was reasonable to screen a child starting on such a drug with a heart EKG test.
Victoria Vetter, head of the AHA statement writing committee, and professor of paediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, said that “After ADHD is diagnosed, but before therapy with a stimulant or other medication is begun, it is suggested that an ECG (electrocardiogram) be added to the pre-treatment evaluation to increase the likelihood of identifying cardiac conditions that may place the child at risk for sudden death.