Treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Record ID 32002000340
Authors' objectives:

To determine (a) the long-term and short-term effectiveness and safety of pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults and (b) whether combined interventions are more effective than individual interventions.

Authors' results and conclusions: - Seventy-eight studies (77 randomized controlled trials) met the inclusion criteria. - Twenty-three studies compared drugs and showed few, if any, differences among methylphenidate (MPH), dextroamphetamine (DEX), and pemoline; studies comparing stimulants with tricyclic antidepressants (2) were inconclusive. - Six studies compared drugs with nondrug interventions and showed consistently that stimulants, particularly MPH, may be more effective than nonpharmacological interventions. - Twenty studies compared combination therapies with a stimulant or a nondrug intervention alone; no additional beneficial effects for combination therapies were shown. - Nine studies compared tricyclic antidepressants with placebo and showed that desipramine may be more effective than placebo; no consistent effect was shown for imipramine. - Fourteen studies (13 in school children and 1 in adults) evaluated long-term therapy (>12 weeks) and showed a trend to general improvement regardless of treatment, but the length of followup was inadequate. - MPH may reduce behavioral disturbance in children with ADHD while it is taken. Academic performance does not appear to be improved with stimulants. - Twelve studies evaluated treatment in adults with ADHD. For MPH vs. placebo, the results were contradictory. Antidepressants may be effective in adults, but no beneficial effect was seen with pemoline, nicotine, or phenylalanine compared with placebo. - Thirty-two reports (29 studies) evaluated adverse effects of drug therapy; many of the side effects associated with stimulant use appear to be relatively mild and of short duration and to respond to dosing or timing adjustments. Data are inadequate on the long-term effects and severity of adverse effects of most intervention
Authors' recomendations: This report describes rigorous systematic reviews on the treatment of ADHD, ready for incorporation into evidence-based clinical practice guidelines or performance measures. The report also provides a detailed description of the many limitations of the evidence available and provides recommendations to fill existing knowledge gaps. Studies on ADHD have low reporting quality, methodological flaws, and heterogeneity across outcome measures and tests. A detailed description is included of the many limitations of the available evidence plus recommendations to fill existing knowledge gaps. Fulfilling such knowledge gaps will not be easy and will require genuine collaboration among decision-makers.
Authors' methods: Systematic review
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 1999
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: United States
MeSH Terms
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity
Organisation Name: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Contact Address: Center for Outcomes and Evidence Technology Assessment Program, 540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA. Tel: +1 301 427 1610; Fax: +1 301 427 1639;
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Copyright: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
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