Background: Currently, there is no consensus on the best therapeutic approach to chronic tic disorders and comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). To address this issue, we evaluated the tolerability and efficacy of the noradrenergic tricyclic antidepressant desipramine hydrochloride in the treatment of children and adolescents with chronic tic disorders and comorbid ADHD.
Methods: Forty-one children and adolescents with chronic tic disorders, including Tourette disorder and comorbid ADHD, were studied in a 6-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel trial. Desipramine was titrated weekly up to 3.5 mg/kg per day. We rated ADHD and tic symptoms weekly and monitored adverse effects, laboratory findings, and cardiovascular parameters.
Results: Treatment with desipramine (mean total daily dose, 3.4 mg/kg per day) was well tolerated without meaningful adverse effects. Desipramine significantly reduced core symptoms of ADHD (ADHD Rating Scale; 42% decrease from baseline relative to placebo, P<.001), with equal response in inattentive symptoms and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms (P<.001 for both). The ADHD response rate was robust (71% vs 0%; desipramine vs placebo, P<.001). Likewise, desipramine significantly reduced tic symptoms (Yale Global Tic Severity Scale; 30% decrease from baseline relative to placebo, P<.001), with equal response in motor and phonic tic symptoms (P<.01 for both). The tic response rate was substantial (58% vs 5%; desipramine vs placebo, P<.001). There were small but statistically significant differences between desipramine and placebo in heart rate and blood pressure.
Conclusions: Treatment with desipramine was well tolerated and was associated with robust clinically significant reductions in tic and ADHD symptoms in children and adolescents with chronic tic disorders and ADHD diagnoses.