Penn Medicine Logo The probable side-effects of medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have often remained a controversial topic in the health-space. After spanning through a large population of children and adolescents receiving ADHD medications, an observational study triggered by the University of Pennsylvania asserted that kids on ADHD medication are less likely to die from a severe cardiovascular event than those who do not take the drugs. The investigation apparently provides reassurance to parents and caregivers that ADHD drugs are safe from cardiovascular perspective.

In this study, patient data contained in Medicaid databases from five states (CA, FL, PA, NY, OH) and the HealthCore Integrated Research Database was assayed. This data included historical as well as current medical and pharmacy details about more than 44 million enrollees in Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in 14 states. A total of 241,417 patients in the age group of 3-17 years on ADHD medications were analyzed for a median of 135 days.

Rates of sudden death, heart attack, and stroke in patients taking ADHD medications were then compared with those not taking medications. All the patients of the study were of the same age, sex and from the same state over a median of 609 days. Around 28 deaths in the group exposed to ADHD medications and 607 in the control group were registered.

“These data provide reassurance that the thing most concerning — death — is not any higher in users of ADHD medications than non-users,” remarked senior author Sean Hennessy, PharmD, PhD, an associate professor of Epidemiology at Penn. “For kids who will benefit from ADHD treatment, the potential risk of a cardiovascular event should not dissuade parents or caregivers from giving a child or adolescent these drugs.”

Also no incidences of heart attack or stroke in the group who received ADHD medications and 11 cases in the unexposed group were reported. As the group of children and adolescents receiving ADHD medications had no validated reports of stroke and heart attack, authors failed to pinpoint relative increases in the rate of such events from use of the drugs. In conclusion, it was affirmed that ADHD drugs do not interfere with the risk of cardiovascular events.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.