Authors: Alice Weatherston
New research by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College (NY, USA) has revealed an association between common prescription drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and low bone density. The findings highlight the need to monitor bone health of children prescribed these medications given further links between low childhood bone density and later life osteoporosis. The results were presented recently at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society (April 1–4 2016; MA, USA).
Describing the background to the study, lead author Alexis Feuer (Weill Cornell Medical College) explained: “We see many kids in our practice who are taking stimulants and they usually come to us for either poor weight gain or poor linear growth. Stimulant medications have been shown to slow the growth rate in children for a period of time during treatment, but the effects of stimulant use — if any — on the structure of bones in children remain largely unknown.”
To investigate this relationship further Feuer and colleagues based at a range of institutions across the US compiled data collected from over 6000 participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which assesses the health and nutritional status of a nationally representative cross-section of adults and children in the United States.
Individuals included in the study were aged 8–20 years, with 159 of the total 6000 using stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamine that are widely prescribed for ADHD. Bone density of the femur and the lumbar spine of all study participants was assessed through dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.
Results indicated that bone density of children that were prescribed stimulants was lower than children of a comparable age that did not use these medications.
Feuer concluded: “This finding is important, because we know that if you do not accrue peak bone density during adolescence and young adulthood, you’re at a much higher risk for osteoporosis and fractures.” An estimated 6.4 million children in the US are thought to be affected by ADHD and many are prescribed stimulant drugs, highlighting a great need to control the long-term effects of their use.