Evolution of the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children: A review

Robert L. Findling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Background: Efficacious and well-tolerated medications are available for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants such as methylphenidate (MPH) and amphetamines are the most widely used medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of ADHDin children. Objective: This article reviews the literature on the development and use of medications for the treatment of ADHD in children. Methods: A search of MEDLINE was conducted toidentify relevant studies and critical reviews on the treatment of ADHD in children.The main criteria for inclusion of a study were that it have a controlled design, enroll >100 subjects if a clinical trial and >20 subjects if a classroom study, assess symptoms with the most widely used scales and tests,and be published from 2000 to 2008.A few older pivotal studies were also included. Results: Many studies have reported the long-term efficacy and tolerability of immediate-release formulations of MPH. The disadvantages of such formulations include the need for multiple daily dosing and a potential for abuse. Various extended-release formulations of MPH have been found effective in controlled studies enrolling large numbers of children with ADHD. The efficacy and tolerability of dexmethylphenidate, the active D-isomer of MPH, in an extended-release formulation have also been reported. An extended-release formulation of mixed amphetamine salts (MMAS-XR) that is dosed once daily has been found to be efficacious and well tolerated. The non-stimulant atomoxetine has been reported to be well tolerated and efficacious, although it may not be as effective as stimulants; this formulation is, however, less likely than stimulants to be associated with abuse and diversion. A recently approved prodrug stimulant, lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (LDX), was developed to provide a long duration of effect that is consistent throughout the day, with a reduced potential for abuse. In a placebo-controlled study in children with ADHD, less intersubject variability in Tmax, Cmax, and AUC from time zero to the last quantifiable concentration was seen in the 8 subjects who received LDX (percent coefficient of variation, 15.3, 20.3, and 21.6, respectively) compared with the 9 subjects who received MAS-XR (52.8, 44.0, and 42.8).In 2 clinical trials, significantly greater improvements in teacher and parent ratings of ADHD symptoms were seen with LDX compared with placebo (P<0.001).A study of the abuse potential of LDX evaluated subjective responses to the effects of oral LDX and immediate-release d-amphetamine in adults with a history of stimulant abuse. LDX was associated with a significantly lower abuse-related liking effect than d-aamphetamine (P = 0.039). Conclusions: Currently available treatments for ADHD in children are efficacious and well tolerated, but many of them are limited by the requirement for multiple daily dosing and abuse potential. LDX, a long-acting prodrug of d-amphetamine, has been reported to be effective and appears to overcome some of these limitations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)942-957
Number of pages16
JournalClinical therapeutics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • children
  • lisdexamfetamine
  • nonstimulants
  • prodrugs
  • stimulants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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