ADHD Meds May Be Heart Safe

ADHD medicines were not linked to serious heart problems in adults during the first few months

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Some patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be concerned that their medication may affect their heart health. So, researchers set out to see if taking ADHD medicine was linked to serious heart problems.

The researchers looked at medical records for adults who started taking amphetamines or atomoxetine for ADHD.

Results showed that people who started taking these ADHD medicines were not at increased risk of having serious heart problems like stroke or heart attack within the first two to three months.

The researchers suggested that starting these ADHD medicines may not raise the risk of heart problems.

"Ask a doctor about the risks of your ADHD medicine."

In a previous study, researchers led by Hedi Schelleman, PhD, at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found that methylphenidate (Ritalin) raised the risk for some heart problems, so they wanted to inspect other ADHD medicines.

In this new study, they looked at patient data from insurance and healthcare plan databases.

They found 38,586 adults who started taking amphetamine (Adderall) for ADHD, and 20,995 adults who started taking atomoxetine (Strattera). They compared people taking these medicines to 238,183 adult non-users who were not taking either of these medicines.

The researchers wanted to see who had serious cardiovascular events over the first two to three months that they took ADHD medicine. Serious cardiovascular events included sudden death, ventricular arrhythmia (a form of heart malfunction), stroke and heart attack.

The researchers estimated a hazard ratio for people taking amphetamine-based meds versus non-users and for people taking atomoxetine versus non-users. A hazard ratio gives the likelihood of an event happening to one group compared to another during the study period.

People taking either drug were no more likely than non-users to have any of the cardiovascular events. However, the authors said that some specific risks were slightly higher but not at a level that was obviously meaningful.

The hazard ratio for sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia for people taking amphetamine was 1.18. According to the authors, this finding shows a slight elevation in risk.

The hazard ratio for stroke in people taking atomextine was 1.30. Again, the authors said this finding may indicate a small increase in risk.

The authors concluded that starting an amphetamine or atomoxetine as an adult was not linked to an increased risk for serious cardiovascular events.

The study was limited by the fact that it looked at patient records and based the taking of ADHD medicine on patients filling their prescriptions. As such, they could not know if patients were taking their medications as prescribed.

Also, the follow-up period lasted only two to three months after people starting taking their medicine. Therefore, the study could not address risks that may have shown up with longer-term use of these medicines.

This study was published January 30 in PLoS One. The study was funded by Shire Development, Inc., the maker of Adderall, and the National Institutes of Health. The authors reported financial links to Shire, GlaxoSmithKline, Abbot and Novartis among others.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 19, 2013
Last Updated:
February 26, 2013