Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ADHD Medication Study

Yesterday morning Fishygal sent me a link to a CNN Story titled Study: ADHD meds don't boost severe heart risks  The  headline seemed to contradict a lot of information I'd read on the subject since I first took a serious interest in it last December when a member of this website lost his eight year old grandson, Tyler..  The article started off like this:
Children and teens who take medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are no more likely to die from severe heart problems than those who do not take the medications, new research has found
.That was the conclusion of a study conducted by The University of Pennsylvania and was co authored by Healthcare.  An  Associate Professor, Sean Hennessy co authored the study, according to him; 

"For kids who will benefit from ADHD treatment, the potential risk of a cardiovascular event should not dissuade parents or caregivers from giving a child or adolescent these drugs."

Today, nearly 5% of American children between ages 6 and 17 — about 4.5 million children — have been diagnosed with ADHD, and two-thirds of those take medicine to control their symptoms.  Those are the "Official Numbers"  I've seen unofficial numbers twice as high, considering the vast majority are boys, depending on who's numbers you trust, as many as one in five boys might have ADHD..... Does anyone rember the old line "Boys will be Boys"?

Maybe that's not as bad as it sounds, CNN is telling me the The University of Pennsylvania Medical says the stuff is not that dangerous..  Unless the "Not That" in not that dangerous happens to kill your child.. Roughly halfway through the article I saw the numbers,  Whether by accident or design they'd been spread out in a way you could easily read past them.  

Out of that data, more than 241,000 patients aged 3-17 who were on ADHD medications were tracked by looking at their health records. Investigators then compared rates of sudden death, heart attack, and stroke in patients taking ADHD medications with a control group made up of children and teens (more than 965,000) who were not taking medications, during a 609-day period

Researchers found that of those children or teens taking ADHD medication, 28 had died, during that time frame, while 607 had died in the non-medicated group. They also noted there were no cases of heart attack or stroke in the group who were on ADHD medication, while there were 11 cases of cardiac events in the non-exposed group.

I'd been looking for the numbers, (which weren't emphasised or highlighted in the CNN Article) When I saw them... they confirmed the study, or the reporting had been skewed...  take a look, given just the numbers CNN Reported

Out of 965,000 non medicated subjects 607 died of "something".. In round figures, 60 per 100,000

Out of 241,000 medicated subjects 28 died of "something".. In round figures 12 per 100,000...

Non Medicated Kids died fives times as frequently as the kids taking ADHD Medications... No F'ing way!!!

We're not comparing the death rate of people in there 20's to the death rate of people in there 80's... We are comparing kids in the 3 to 17 year old category in both groups.   According to those numbers kids not taking the medication were five times as likely to die from "something" as the kids taking the medication.  There are too many test subjects involved for it to be an anomaly.  The fact that they published numbers that obviously flawed makes the rest of the study completely worthless..  That includes what they said about the relationship to heart problems.

I'm sure someone is going to say I'm missing something.  Click here and re read yourself.  In a way I hope I did, because if I didn't the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine is at best guilty of putting out misleading information.  At worst they manipulated data in order to create a report the medications manufacturer could use for advertising and to satisfy some new FDA Requirements about to go into affect.

It also means the editotial staff at CNN needs to do a little reading, and use a little common sense before they publish something... 

Now might be a good time to point out that the study was funded by Shire, a company that manufacturs ADHD Drugs.  Shire had to approve the protocol for the study and they had the right make comments on the draft study manuscript.

And in case you're wondering, they have potentially hundreds of millions of profit dollars at stake....

Besides suggesting an investiagtion might be in order, there's not much left to say..



  1. A study with these results protect the manufacturer in potential court cases. Imagine how a jury would receive and process the info and conclusions drawn. There is a reason the FDA is also studying heart-related issues and forced manufacturers to include heart warnings as a risk. Risks will not change, but physical evaluations and better medical monitoring might. Recently, pediatricians and cardiologists disagreed about the benefits of an EKG prior to prescribing the drug, which left great confusion among medical professionals. What is clear? If a child has heart-related issues, these meds are not good for them.

  2. Well said Sandra. Parents have to be pro-active with their doctors and schools.

  3. Fishy - we just have to know too much even to sneeze these days. Is there a correlation between high stakes assessment and ADHD referrals? Since more kids are getting "diagnosed" what is driving the trend?


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