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ADHD Drugs Didn't Raise Heart Risks for Kids, Study Finds

FRIDAY, Nov. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Children who take drugs to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not at increased risk for serious heart problems, according to a new review that confirms previous findings.

University of Florida researchers analyzed data from 1.2 million U.S. youths in Medicaid programs in 28 states, and found that the per-year risk of any child suffering a severe cardiac event was about one in 30,000. Severe cardiac events include sudden cardiac death, heart attack and stroke, and are typically caused by underlying heart disease.

Children taking ADHD drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin did not have a greater risk of severe cardiac events than other children, according to the study published recently in the British Medical Journal.

The results confirm previous studies that concluded that the use of such stimulants by children and young adults does not increase the short-term risk of serious heart problems.

"This is a question that has been lingering for about 10 years," study author Almut Winterstein, a pharmacoepidemiologist and a professor in pharmaceutical outcomes and policy in the UF College of Pharmacy, said in a university news release.

She noted that stimulants are the third most commonly prescribed medications for children, after antibiotics and antidepressants.

While this and previous studies concluded that use of ADHD drugs poses no short-term risk to heart health, the long-term effects still aren't known.

"It's an important issue to address, but we won't be able to answer the question until this generation of ADHD children, who began using stimulant drugs in the 1990s, reaches adulthood into their 50s, 60s and 70s," Winterstein said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, Oct. 31, 2012

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