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Which ADHD Medication Will Work Best?

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago are hoping to help clinicians with one of the most pressing problems when prescribing medications to children for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – will the child respond to a medication including stimulants, or will they do better with a drug that is a non-stimulant?

The scientists will compare two drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to determine if genetic factors predict which children will respond to either or both drugs.

Which ADHD Medication Will Work Best?Many different medications are used to treat ADHD, including stimulants and non-stimulants, says Dr. Mark Stein, principal investigator of the National Institute of Mental Health-funded study and director of the Hyperactivity, Attention, and Learning Problems Clinic at UIC.

“Unfortunately, clinicians are unable to predict in advance who will respond or not respond to a particular medication,” Stein said.

The study will be conducted in Chicago and New York. Stein and colleagues will enroll 160 children and adolescents between ages 7 and 17 in Chicago. Dr. Jeffrey Newcorn of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine heads the New York site.

Participants will undergo psychiatric evaluations, IQ and achievement tests, a blood test, an electrocardiogram and a physical exam. They will then receive several doses of atomoxetine (a non-stimulant medication), melthylphenidate (a stimulant medication), and a placebo, during a carefully monitored blinded dosing sequence to determine their optimal response to each medication.

During the 12 to 15-week study, researchers will assess the children’s ADHD symptoms, social functioning, problem-solving skills and sleep patterns to determine the efficacy and tolerability of each medication.

Previous research conducted by Stein and colleagues found that children with a variant form of a dopamine transporter gene — a variant known to be associated with ADHD — responded poorly to stimulant medication and had more side effects at lower doses. The new study will test whether patients with this genetic marker respond better to non-stimulant medication.

“At the end of the study we hope to be able to look at a child’s biological characteristics to statistically predict who is more likely to respond to a certain medication and to determine who is more likely not to respond or to have a particular side effect,” Stein said.

“The study provides an idealized standard of care in that the children will be carefully evaluated during their treatment with two different medications, with frequent monitoring that typically does not occur during the normal course of ADHD treatment,” said Stein.

At the end of the trial, participants will be referred back to their primary care provider or given a referral for ongoing treatment with information learned from the study.

For more information about the study, call (312) 996-2389.

Source: Hyperactivity, Attention, and Learning Problems Clinic at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Which ADHD Medication Will Work Best?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Which ADHD Medication Will Work Best?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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