A federal study has found no link between attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs like Ritalin and heart problems among children and young adults.
The findings of an FDA-funded study on ADHD drugs and cardiovascular risk was published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, about four years after the agency began expressing concerns over signs that there may be a link. However, U.S. researchers say that children taking the drugs suffer heart attacks, strokes and sudden death at about the same rate as children not taking the drugs.
Researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study with data from 1.2 million children and young adults between the ages of 2 and 24. The researchers compared current users of ADHD drugs to both children who were not taking any ADHD drugs and former users of ADHD drugs and found no correlation between cardiovascular events and whether someone used the medications.
ADHD medications are used by nearly 3.3 million American children under the age of 20. Some estimates have placed usage of ADHD drugs as high as 10% among 10 year old American boys, and many experts believe that the drugs are often prescribed to individuals for whom the benefits do not outweigh the risks associated with the medications.
Concerns increased following a 2009 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry that suggested there was a link between the side effects of Ritalin and other ADHD drugs and sudden cardiovascular problems. However, the study’s ultimate findings were inconclusive due to several limitations.
In 2007, mounting evidence led the FDA to require more stringent warning labels on the medications, highlighting the possible link between ADHD drugs and increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and risk of sudden death for those with cardiovascular problems.
Researchers involved with the new study said that there was a slim chance that there was a doubling of the risk of serious cardiovascular events, but the normal rate of incidence is so small that even doubling it resulted in an extremely low risk.
A similar study published earlier this year by University of Pennsylvania researchers in the medical journal Pediatrics came to the same conclusions.