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ADHD drug use levels off after 18-year surge

Fall in use of ADHD medications might reflect NICE guidance and concern about long-term side effects
Child taking medication

Using drugs to treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have reached a plateau, after a steep rise in prescriptions over the past 18 years.

Using the medical records of children aged up to 16 years who were prescribed at least one drug to treat ADHD, researchers estimated prescribing trends between 1995 and 2013, and the duration of treatment for those diagnosed with the condition.

During this period, 14,748 children under 16 85% of whom were boys were given at least one ADHD drug prescription, with more than half receiving their first prescription between the ages of six and 11.

Changing trend

The researchers said the use of these drugs rose dramatically from 1.5 per 10,000 children in 1995 to 50.7 per 10,000 children in 2008. It then seemed to level off at 51.1 per 10,000 children by 2013.

The rate of

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Using drugs to treat children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have reached a plateau, after a steep rise in prescriptions over the past 18 years. 

Using the medical records of children aged up to 16 years who were prescribed at least one drug to treat ADHD, researchers estimated prescribing trends between 1995 and 2013, and the duration of treatment for those diagnosed with the condition. 

During this period, 14,748 children under 16 – 85% of whom were boys – were given at least one ADHD drug prescription, with more than half receiving their first prescription between the ages of six and 11. 

Changing trend

The researchers said the use of these drugs rose dramatically from 1.5 per 10,000 children in 1995 to 50.7 per 10,000 children in 2008. It then seemed to level off at 51.1 per 10,000 children by 2013. 

The rate of new prescriptions rose eight-fold over the same period, reaching 10.2 per 10,000 children in 2007 but then falling to 9.1 per 10,000 children in 2013. 

The researchers said these patterns might reflect the effect of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines issued in 2008, and/or heart concerns in relation to the long-term use of ADHD drugs.

Beau-Lejdstrom R et al (2016) Latest trends in ADHD drug prescribing patterns in children in the UK: prevalence, incidence and persistence BMJ Open. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010508

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