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Ritalin ‘the best medication for children with ADHD’

Methylphenidate drugs, of which Ritalin (methylphenidate hcl) is probably the most well known, is the safest and most effective medication for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a recent study concluded. 

Published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, the study examined the efficacy of a variety of drugs in the treatment of ADHD in adults and children. Medicines included in the study included methylphenidate, modafinil, bupropion, atomoxetine, and amphetamines. A total of 133 double-blind randomized control trials were included in the study, comprised of 81 children and adolescents and 51 adults. 

ADHD is a mental health condition with a wide range of symptoms, which vary significantly between patients. Around five percent of children in the United States have ADHD, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), although other studies suggest the figure may be higher.

To diagnose the condition, physicians and psychiatrists look for six or more symptoms designated by APA, including disorganization, hyperactivity, inability to complete tasks, impulsive behavior, and mood swings. 

The latest study conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom found that, overall, amphetamines, which include Adderall (dextroamphetamine), are the most effective ADHD treatment for adults. However, when treating children and adolescents, it suggested methylphenidate drugs such as Ritalin are the better option.

Amphetamines were found to be “marginally more efficacious” than methylphenidate drugs in children, yet these are not tolerated as well among pediatric patients. Taking both factors into consideration, the authors of the study concluded treatment with methylphenidate should be considered ahead of treatment with amphetamines. 

One of the study’s authors Andrea Cipriani, MD, associate professor of psychiatry in the Medical Sciences Division at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, commented: “Our findings will hopefully help people with ADHD in the USA find the best treatment for them by clarifying which drugs should be first, second and third line treatments.”

In August 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a novel formulation of methylphenidate called Jornay PM. Developed by Ironshore Pharmaceuticals, the drug is indicated for children aged six and over and, unusually is taken in the evening rather than first thing in the morning.