More than 1.5 million US adults use stimulants and other medications labeled for treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These agents can increase heart rate and blood pressure, raising concerns about their cardiovascular safety.
Examine whether current use of medications used primarily to treat ADHD is associated with increased risk of serious cardiovascular events in young and middle-aged adults.
Retrospective, population-based cohort study
Computerized health records from 4 study sites (OptumInsight Epidemiology, Tennessee Medicaid, Kaiser Permanente California, and the HMO Research Network), starting in 1986 at one site and ending in 2005 at all sites, with additional covariate assessment using 2007 survey data.
Adults aged 25–64 years with dispensed prescriptions for methylphenidate, amphetamine, or atomoxetine at baseline. Each medication user (n=150,359) was matched to two non-users on study site, birth year, sex, and calendar year (total users and non-users=443,198).
Serious cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction (MI), sudden cardiac death (SCD), or stroke. Comparison between current or new users and remote users to account for potential healthy user bias.
During 806,182 person-years of follow-up (median 1.3 years per person), 1357 cases of MI, 296 cases of SCD, and 575 cases of stroke occurred. There were 107,322 person-years of current use (median 0.33 years), with a crude incidence per 1000 person-years of 1.34 (95% CI, 1.14–1.57) for MI, 0.30 (95% CI, 0.20–0.42) for SCD, and 0.56 (95% CI, 0.43–0.72) for stroke. The multivariable adjusted rate ratio (RR) of serious cardiovascular events for current use vs non-use of ADHD medications was 0.83 (95% CI 0.72–0.96). Among new users of ADHD medications, the adjusted RR was 0.77 (95% CI 0.63–0.94). The adjusted RR was 1.03 (95% CI, 0.86–1.24) for current use vs remote use, and was 1.02 (95% CI, 0.82–1.28) for new use vs remote use.
Among young and middle-aged adults, current or new use of ADHD medications, compared with non-use or remote use, was not associated with an increased risk of serious cardiovascular events. Apparent protective associations likely represent healthy user bias.