Monkeys on ADHD Meds Don't Show Signs of Heart Damage

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A common stimulant medication used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — methylphenidate (MPH) — probably does not cause heart damage, according to a long-term study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For ethical reasons, this study involved primates (rhesus monkeys) rather than humans.

About 1.8 million children in the United States are treated for ADHD each year. Some of the stimulants used to treat the neurobehavioral disorder include a “black box warning” issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advising that they should be used with caution in children who have an underlying heart condition. Previous research has shown increased risk for sudden cardiac death and other heart damage in some children taking stimulants for ADHD.

The results of this latest study, published in Pediatric Research, can’t be automatically applied to humans, but the findings are very reassuring, according to the researchers involved. The 2-year-old monkeys were divided into three groups: one group receive normal doses of the stimulant, one received high doses, and one received a placebo for five years — a time-frame that corresponds to the period from childhood to adulthood in humans. The researchers found no statistical differences among the three groups on any measures of heart damage, including inflammatory biomarkers, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, endomyocardial biopsies, and others.

Sourced from: Pediatric Research