ADHD drugs are beneficial, say European investigators

The benefits of ADHD drugs such as Ritalin outweigh any negative effects, an eagerly-awaited European investigation has concluded.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has since 2007 been investigating methylphenidate – whose brand names are Ritalin, Concerta, Equasym, Medikinet and Rubifen.

Medicine regulators in European member states requested the agency’s mediation due to long-running concerns over cardiovascular and cerebrovascular effects of methylphenidate – such as heart rate and blood pressure increases and heart attack.

The review was carried out by the agency’s committee for medicinal products for human use. It was based on reported side effects and all studies on methylphenidate since the fifties.

The committee also investigated any link between methylphenidate and psychiatric problems, reduced growth and sexual maturation.

An urgent restriction to methylphenidate prescribing is not needed, the committee concluded this month.

And the committee decided that for young people aged six or over diagnosed with ADHD the benefits of methylphenidate outweighed risks, when used as part of a comprehensive treatment programme.

But the full review is not available for scrutiny by third-party scientists because of “legal” reasons, said an EMA spokeswoman.

The review has been passed to the European Commission which will examine the review within the next two months.

“The review process only finishes when the commission decides on it,” said the spokeswoman.

The committee does recommend, however, that all ADHD patients be screened before treatment to detect any blood pressure or heart rate problems.

Due the lack of information on the long-term effects of methylphenidate, patients on the drug for more than a year should have their treatment interrupted at least once a year to determine if continued treatment is necessary, concluded the EMA committee.

ADHD is diagnosed on around 3% of young people in the UK

Last year UK doctors were told by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to should stop prescribing methylphenidate as a first-line treatment for children diagnosed with ADHD.

Instead parents of ADHD-diagnosed children should be first trained to help manage their child’s behaviour, said NICE.

Some practitioners argue ADHD is not a valid medical concept, and has no established physiological cause.

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