Entries in Ritalin (3)


Could Ritalin Help Alzheimer’s Patients, Too?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, British Columbia) -- Ritalin, a drug most often used for attention deficit disorders in the very young, may hold promise for a very different set of patients -- the predominantly old group of patients who suffer with Alzheimer’s.

Apathy -- simply put, a lack of interest or motivation -- is an under-recognized problem in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Over 70 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s suffer from apathy as the illness progresses over the course of five years.

“Often hidden as depression, apathy can significantly impair a person’s ability to interact with their loved ones,” says Dr. Jacobo Mintzer of the Medical University of South Carolina, lead author of a new clinical trial whose results were presented Wednesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

The international multi-center study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, looks at using the stimulant medication methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, to treat symptoms of apathy in some patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“No one knows exactly what causes apathy,” says Mintzer. “Some data suggests that it is correlated to a decrease in the transmission of dopamine [a chemical] in the brain.” The drug Ritalin, which is inexpensive and currently on the market to treat patients with attention deficit disorders (ADD) and narcolepsy, is a compound that enhances the activity of dopamine in the brain.

The trial included 60 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease without depression, and randomized the patients to have treatment with Ritalin or a placebo.  Over the six weeks of treatment, the patients receiving Ritalin had significant improvements on their clinical testing for apathy.  The side effects were minimal, and included weight loss, anxiety and headaches.

“While there has been increasing attention on early detection and prediction of Alzheimer’s disease, the fact remains that treatment of symptoms, both behavioral and cognitive, is a considerable challenge,” says Dr. Alan Lerner, professor of neurology at Case Western Reserve University.  “Apathy is one of the most common behavioral problems and is a major cause of caregiver distress and morbidity in Alzheimer’s Disease. This study of methylphenidate begins to make significant advances in this direction.”

Mintzer stresses that although Ritalin is not a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, it has promise for the future as an aid for symptom improvement. Larger studies with more patients will be needed to determine the long-term effects before Ritalin can be used as a standard treatment for these patients.

“We don’t think we will cure patients, but it will have a positive impact in quality of life of patients and their caregivers,” he says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


ADHD Meds Safe for Adults, Research Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- New research out of Kaiser Permanente Northern California finds that Ritalin and other drugs used to treat attention deficit disorder are safe for use in adults. Ohio State University psychiatry professor Dr. L. Eugene Arnold says there are more than a million adults on the drug in the U.S.

"Not everybody outgrows the problem as they mature, some do but some don't," says Arnold.

The study -- the largest of its kind -- reviewed health records for more than 400-thousand adults aged 25-65 and found that there was no difference in the number of heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related deaths from people not taking the drugs.

Dr. Arnold says taking one of the FDA-approved medications for ADHD "would not be unusually risky" if good reason exists.

But there are still safety concerns, Arnold adds.

"Things that could increase the risk would be older age, previous cardiac problems, high blood pressure, pre-existing medication," Arnold warns.

Whatever a patient chooses -- at any age -- Dr. Arnold advises against simply settling for the medication.

"A combination of treatment has been shown to be most effective whether it's with children or adults …" Dr. Arnold says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Should Preschoolers Take Ritalin and Other Stimulants?

Comstock/Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been steadily on the rise in the past few decades, and so has the use of drugs to treat it. But now even younger children might be considered prime targets for prescriptions of the drugs, an idea that is sparking persistent concerns about the long-term effects of giving stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall to children.

“We don’t have enough information to know the long-term effects of these medications on young developing brains,” said Rahil Briggs, director of Healthy Steps program at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “Young brains are like a sponge, they’ll soak up anything. Serious medication of this sort might affect them disproportionately as well.”

A September survey published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that use of stimulant medications to treat ADHD had risen in the past 15 years, and the number of children between 13 and 18 taking the drugs had risen 6.5 percent each year since 1996.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines last week recommending that children as young as 4 should be screened for ADHD. The guidelines also endorsed prescribing ADHD medications such as Ritalin for preschool-aged kids who have moderate to severe symptoms and who don’t seem to benefit from behavioral therapy.

The use of methylphenidate, the active ingredient in ADHD drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta, in preschool-aged kids is an off-label use of the drug because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the drug only for children 6 and older.

The idea of giving powerful stimulants to young children gives many parents and pediatricians pause. But the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new guidelines are particularly cautious when it comes to recommending drugs for preschoolers.

For preschoolers who do wind up taking the drugs, scientists know fairly little about how the medications affect them. Only one large study, conducted by the National Institutes of Mental Health, has investigated how these drugs affect preschool-aged kids. The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study looked at 303 kids between 3 and 5 being treated for ADHD. If behavioral interventions failed, the children took daily doses of methylphenidate.

The study’s results showed that preschoolers who took the drug didn’t benefit from it as much as older children do, and they were also more likely to experience adverse side effects. One out of 10 kids who took the drug had to drop out of the study because the drug’s side effects were so intolerable.

Despite these results, some experts note that medication can offer relief to parents and children for whom all other approaches have failed.

“ADHD is common disorder that can lead to significant impairment,” said Dr. Chris Kratochvil, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “The concern is that if clinicians don’t take the time to really evaluate the child or don’t understand what ADHD would look like in a preschool child, that might lead to inappropriate use of these medications.”

Ultimately, child development experts say parents and doctors should always take a cautious approach when it comes to prescribing ADHD drugs for young children.

“It’s got to be the very last solution we turn to after exhausting everything else that we know works really well,” Montefiore’s Briggs said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio