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A comprehensive new study is underway by two U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, to determine if prescription medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increases the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular problems or stroke.

Research supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will study the clinical data of approximately 500,000 adults and children who have taken prescription medication to treat ADHD to determine if the drugs increase heart attack risks.

Medications prescribed for the treatment of ADHD are known to increase blood pressure and heart rate, therefore experts are concerned about the drugs potential to increase cardiac risk. Additionally, researchers believe the risks may be different between adults and children, but more evidence is required about the long term affects of taking ADHD medication.

The planned analysis follows an FDA-sponsored preliminary study that compiled information from large health care databases on prescription drug use, inpatient care, outpatient treatment, and health outcomes, including death. Based on that effort, researchers identified people who took ADHD drugs during a seven-year period ending in 2005. AHRQ, which sponsors research on clinical effectiveness and safety, will team with FDA to complete the analysis of the data.

“This study highlights one of AHRQ’s most important missions: to collect and analyze, scientific evidence that will help patients, policymakers, and clinicians make the best possible decisions,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. “This partnership with the FDA is a great way to move closer to answering important clinical questions that affect children and adults who have ADHD.”

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