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Cardiovascular Effects of Drugs Used to Treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Part 2

Impact on Cardiovascular Events and Recommendations for Evaluation and Monitoring

Fay, Thomas B. MD*; Alpert, Martin A. MD

doi: 10.1097/CRD.0000000000000234
Review Articles

A variety of psychostimulant and nonpsychostimulant medications have proven to be successful in reducing inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity in individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Psychostimulants used to treat ADHD include methylphenidate and related drugs and various amphetamine preparations. Nonpsychostimulant medications used to treat ADHD include atomoxetine and 2 α-2 adrenergic agonists: guanfacine extended-release and clonidine extended-release. The psychostimulants and atomoxetine have been shown, on average, to increase heart rate by 3–10 beats/min, systolic blood pressure by 3–8 mm Hg, and diastolic BP by 2–14 mm Hg. These drugs may also delay ventricular repolarization. The α-2 adrenergic agonists may reduce heart rate and BP. For these reasons, there is concern about the safety of psychostimulant and nonpsychostimulant medications in patients with ADHD. Studies in healthy children adolescents and adults have not consistently shown a disproportionately high risk of major adverse cardiovascular (CV) outcomes, including sudden unexpected death. Those with underlying CV disease have, in general, tolerated these drugs well. Certain high-risk groups have been identified who may benefit from cardiology consultation prior to drug initiation. Several American and Canadian professional societies have published guidelines for CV evaluation, management, and monitoring of patients with ADHD who are candidates for pharmacotherapy.

From the *Department of Pathology, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Missouri School of Medicine, Columbia, MO.

Disclosure: The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Correspondence: Martin A. Alpert, MD, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Missouri Health Sciences Center, One Hospital Drive, Room CE 338, Columbia, MO 65212. E-mail:

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