ADHD drug use has plateaued in UK

An upset boy, crying

The use of drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has plateaued in the UK, according to research published in BMJ Open
on 13 June 2016.

The researchers, from the UK’s London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Geneva in Switzerland, also found that a course of ADHD drug treatment in the UK lasts longer, on average, than treatment courses in other parts of Europe or the United States. 

The findings follow a review of ADHD drugs prescribed to UK children under the age of 16 years whose data were included on the Clinical Practice Research Datalink database between 1992 and 2013. All 14,748 children identified had received at least one prescription for an ADHD drug.

The researchers found that overall prevalence of ADHD drug use in children under the age of 16 years increased 34-fold from 1995 to 2008, rising from 1.5 to 50.7 per 10,000 children. In 2013 the rate stabilised to 51.1 per 10,000 children.

The overall incidence of ADHD drug use increased nine-fold between 1995 and 2013 from 1.1 to 9.1 per 10,000 children, falling from a high of 10.2 per 10,000 children in 2007.

Some 77% of children were still receiving ADHD drugs a year after starting and 60% were still on the drugs two years later.

“There was a marked increase in ADHD drug use among children in the UK from 1992 until around 2008, with stable levels of use since then,” say the researchers. “UK children show relatively long persistence of treatment with ADHD medications compared to other countries.”


[1] Beau-Lejdstrom R, Douglas I, Evans SJW et al. Latest trends in ADHD drug prescribing patterns in children in the UK: prevalence, incidence and persistence. BMJ Open 2016;6:e010508. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010508

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, ADHD drug use has plateaued in UK;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201304

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