Open Access Research article

Comorbidities in ADHD children treated with methylphenidate: a database study

Angela A Kraut1, Ingo Langner1, Christina Lindemann1, Tobias Banaschewski2, Ulrike Petermann3, Franz Petermann3, Rafael T Mikolajczyk14 and Edeltraut Garbe15*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology – BIPS, Achterstrasse 30, Bremen 28359, Germany

2 Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg, Mannheim, J 5, Mannheim, 68159, Germany

3 Centre for Psychology and Rehabilitation, University of Bremen, Grazer Strasse 2 & 6, Bremen, 28359, Germany

4 Department of Epidemiology, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Inhoffenstraße 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany

5 Faculty of Human and Health Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

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BMC Psychiatry 2013, 13:11  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-13-11

Published: 7 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Methylphenidate (MPH) is the most common drug treatment of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Treatment with MPH is contraindicated in the presence of certain psychiatric, cerebro- and cardiovascular conditions. We assessed MPH treatment prevalence and incidence and the frequency of comorbid conditions related to these contraindications in new MPH users compared to a control group without ADHD and ADHD medication.

Methods

We used health care data for the years 2004 to 2006 from the German Pharmacoepidemiological Research Database (GePaRD) which includes about 18% of the German population. MPH treatment prevalence and incidence was assessed based on at least one MPH prescription in the given year. In MPH users, the prevalence of psychiatric and other comorbidities was assessed in the quarter of the first MPH prescription and the three preceding quarters, whereas in controls it was assessed in the earliest four quarters of continuous insurance time starting at 01.01.2004 or the start of insurance if this was later. Differences in the presence of comorbid diagnoses between MPH users and controls were tested by logistic regression.

Results

In 2005, 1.5% of all children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 years (2.3% of males and 0.6% of females) received MPH in Germany. The proportion of children with a record of a psychiatric comorbidity in any of the nine ICD categories of diagnoses was substantially higher in new MPH users (83%) compared to controls (20%). Cerebro- and cardiovascular comorbidities were rare in general. Still, among new MPH users, 2% of males and females had a diagnosis of a pre-existing cardiovascular disorder but only 1.2% of controls.

Conclusions

Besides MPH treatment prevalence we first publish age-specific incidence rates for Germany. A high proportion of children who were started on MPH had a record of a psychiatric comorbidity preceding the first prescription. Cerebro- and cardiovascular conditions were rare in the studied age range, but still higher among children who received MPH than in the control group. Results show that in a substantial subgroup of patients, comorbidities require a thorough weighting of possible risks of MPH medication against the risks of untreated ADHD.