Methylphenidate for ADHD in children and adolescents: throwing the baby out with the bathwater

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Abstract

A recent Cochrane review assessed the efficacy of methylphenidate for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. Notwithstanding the moderate-to-large effect sizes for ADHD symptom reduction found in the meta-analysis, the authors concluded that the quality of the evidence is low and therefore the true magnitude of these effects remains uncertain. We identified a number of major concerns with the review, in the domains of study inclusion, approaches to quality assessment and interpretation of data relating to serious adverse events as well as of the clinical implications of the reported effects. We also found errors in the extraction of data used to estimate the effect size of the primary outcome. Considering all the shortcomings, the conclusion in the Cochrane review that the status of the evidence is uncertain is misplaced. Professionals, parents and patients should refer to previous reviews and existing guidelines, which include methylphenidate as one of the safe and efficacious treatment strategies for ADHD.

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