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Long-term use of ADHD medication queried

A Western Australian study has questioned the efficacy of long-term stimulant medication to treat children with ADHD.

04 Apr 2010
A Western Australian study has questioned the efficacy of long-term stimulant medication to treat children with ADHD.

The RAINE Study was conducted by the Telethon Institute for Children's Health Research for the WA Ministerial Implementation Committee for ADHD (MICADHD), using data from the longitudinal Child Health Study of children born in WA in 1989. It analysed eight years of health and development data from the 131 children in the cohort who had been diagnosed with ADHD.

It found no significant differences in health or symptoms of ADHD in the children aged five. But it found a number of differences in those who were treated with stimulant medication by the time they were 13. It found that stimulant medication did not significantly improve a child's level of depression, self-perception or social functioning and that a child's performance at school was more likely to be below their age level by a factor of 10.5 times.

The study also suggested that long-term use of stimulant medication might affect a child's heart function, even after the medication was stopped. MICADHD Chair Prof Louis Landau said that doctors should look at a child's cardiovascular risk symptoms before starting treatment with stimulant medication.

Although the RAINE Study was limited by a very small sample size, he said, "it was larger than those in many smaller short-term studies that supported the use of stimulant medication as a safe and effective treatment for children with ADHD".

The WA Department of Health, which funded the study, has published the report on its website at www.health.wa.gov.au/publications.


Published: 04 Apr 2010