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Research studies have shown that medications commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – such as Adderall, Dexedrine and Ritalin – have a modest effect on blood pressure and heart rate, leading to concern amongst the medical community and the public at large about the potential cardiovascular risks associated with using these drugs. Now, a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania is helping to shed some light on the cardiovascular safety for adults using these common medications.
Using data from Medicaid and the HealthCore Integrated Research Database, Penn Medicine researchers compared the incidence rates of serious cardiovascular events in adults taking ADHD medications to rates in non-users. Incidents of interest were sudden cardiac death or ventricular arrhythmia, stroke, or heart attack.
Although ADHD medication users identified in the study were more likely to have pre-existing cardiovascular or psychiatric disorders, the study ultimately showed that adults using medication to treat ADHD were no more likely to suffer a serious cardiac event than non-users.
“It is reassuring that there’s a growing body of evidence showing no association between using these mediations and serious cardiovascular events,” said says Sean Hennessy, PharmD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology, and director of the Center for Pharmacoepidemiology Research and Training at Penn Medicine. “These new data provide further support that cardiovascular events are no more common in users of ADHD medications than in non-users," "The study expands upon previous and similar findings in studies that have focused specifically on cardiovascular health in kids using ADHD medications.”
Over the last two decades, studies have shown a drastically increasing number of patients diagnosed with ADHD. Though prevalence rates of ADHD in adults are not as well determined, rough estimates suggest 4-5 percent of adults may have been diagnosed with the disorder. Regardless of age, patients diagnosed with ADHD are most often placed on a combination of medication and behavioral treatments. To date, approximately 1.5 million adults in the U.S. use medication to treat the disorder.
"We continue to see reassuring results from these studies looking for cardiac effects of ADHD medications,” said Hennessy. “Given what we know about the increasing number of ADHD diagnoses, and the possibility that a child diagnosed with the disorder will could to struggle with the symptoms into adulthood, it is vital that we have a better understanding of how these medications are affecting long-term health.”