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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.

15 Mar 2010
A Western Australian study has questioned the efficacy oflong-term stimulant medication to treat children with ADHD.

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

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

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

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

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


Published: 15 Mar 2010