* Treating children with ADHD yields better test scores
* Tutoring, parental involvement also called key elements
By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO, April 27 Children given stimulants to
treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms score
higher on math and reading tests than children with the
condition who do not get drugs, researchers said on Monday.
A study that tracked 594 children diagnosed with ADHD from
kindergarten through fifth grade found the 60 percent who were
prescribed drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall performed better
on standardized tests than peers with ADHD who were not given
But the scores of children treated with drugs for ADHD
still lagged children not diagnosed with the condition.
"We're not promoting drugs as the answer. But we did find
medication does improve standardized math and reading scores in
the long term," said Richard Scheffler of the University of
California, Berkeley, one of the researchers.
"Our study found that the children with ADHD who used the
medication were several months ahead of their nonmedicated
peers in reading and math, which is significant because early
progress in school is critical to ongoing academic success,"
Scheffler said children with ADHD who are left untreated do
poorly in school, with higher dropout rates and more substance
abuse, arrests and social isolation.
"They're labeled as bad kids," he said in a telephone
interview. "Drugs are part of the answer. But we need parent
involvement, understanding what this is and how to work with
the kid. We need the school to be involved. We also think that
special services like tutoring need to be made available."
CONDITION MORE COMMON IN BOYS
Of nearly 8 percent of American children, or 4.4 million
children, diagnosed with ADHD, 56 percent are prescribed
medications, mostly stimulants, according to the report
published in the journal Pediatrics. Boys are more commonly
diagnosed with the disorder than girls.
There are some 30 medications used to treat the disorder,
including Novartis AG's NOVN.VX Ritalin and Focalin XR, Shire
Plc's (SHP.L) Adderall XR and Daytrana patch, Johnson &
Johnson's (JNJ.N) Concerta, Eli Lilly and Co's (LLY.N)
Strattera and Celltech Pharmaceuticals Inc's Metadate CD.
The study was government-funded and did not have links to
companies that make the drugs.
Scheffler said the study showed the importance of
recognizing and treating a disorder that affects millions of
people, including adults who are increasingly being prescribed
ADHD is a widely accepted but still controversial
diagnosis, he noted, citing the understandable reluctance to
medicate children with powerful stimulants.
But he said the drugs have been proven safe, with few side
effects. Those can include loss of sleep and appetite and, in
rare cases, temporary hallucinations and psychosis.
(Editing by Michael Conlon and Will Dunham)