There is no evidence of a link between current or new use ADHD medications and heart attacks, sudden cardiac death, or stroke, a new study finds.
Concerns had been raised about such medications’ ability to increase heart rate and blood pressure levels.
The study - led by Dr. Laurel A. Habel from Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland - compared data from about 150,000 adults prescribed ADHD medication with approximately 300,000 nonusers.
“The most commonly used ADHD medications—psychostimulants and atomoxetine—may increase blood pressure and heart rate, which some studies have linked with serious cardiovascular events,” wrote Dr. Philip Shaw, National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, in an accompanying editorial.
Atomoxetine is marketed as Strattera. Stimulants include drugs marketed as Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine.
In 2006, a US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee proposed placing a black box warning concerning sudden death on psychostimulants in response to reports of side effects.
In this study there were 1,357 cases of heart attacks, 296 cases of sudden cardiac death, and 575 cases of stroke.
Dr. Shaw wrote that “perhaps the greatest clinical influence” will be in “how clinicians counsel patients regarding the risks and benefits of ADHD medications.”
“Now there is solid evidence—perhaps even some heartening news—that physicians can use to address concerns about cardiovascular risk,” he wrote.
The researchers used digital health records from four study sites, starting in 1986 at one and ending in 2005 at all sites, with an additional assessment using 2007 survey data. Participants were adults 25 through 64 years old with prescriptions for methylphenidate, amphetamine, or atomoxetine.
JAMA released the study online in advance of print publication due to its public health importance.