March 21, 2011 -- The non-stimulant ADHD drug Strattera (atomextine) is approved for children aged 6 and older, but until now little was known about how this medication affects children younger than 6.
In a new eight-week study of 101 children aged 5 to 6 with ADHD, the drug was safe and reduced some ADHD symptoms in children, according to reports by their parents and teachers.
That said, just 40% of children treated with Strattera were “much” or “very much improved” on a clinical evaluation scale, compared with 22% of children who took placebo. Because the study was small, the percentage of children in the “much improved” or “very much improved” category was not statistically significant.
The new findings, which appear online in Pediatrics, are similar to what has been seen in older children who take this medication for ADHD.
About 3% to 5% of children and adults in the U.S have ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s a behavioral disorder marked by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattention.
Unlike many other medications used to treat ADHD, Straterra is not a stimulant. Instead, it works by boosting levels of the brain chemical norepinephrine, which helps reduce impulsive behavior and hyperactivity and increases attention span.
“Overall, the medication did significantly reduce the symptoms of ADHD for children and was generally safe, but these children still had some symptoms,” says study researcher Christopher Kratochvil, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
“It is important to have appropriate expectations about medication for treating ADHD,” he says. “Medication alone is generally insufficient and should be combined with behavioral therapy and parent training.”
The new study “gives us some information for how safe and effective it is in treating this population,” he says. “It would be good to have longer-term treatment studies and comparator trials with stimulants.”
“Strattera is the first non-stimulant drug approved for ADHD, and in general, compared to stimulants, it does not have as striking of an effect nor as quick of an effect or as consistent of an effect as stimulants,” says Andrew Adesman, MD. Adesman is the chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y.