Safety and tolerability of methylphenidate in preschool children with ADHD

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Nov;45(11):1294-1303. doi: 10.1097/01.chi.0000235082.63156.27.


Objective: To report on the safety and tolerability of methylphenidate (MPH) 3- to 5-year-old children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) during 1 year of treatment.

Method: Exactly 183 children (3-5 years old) entered a treatment study of MPH, consisting of a 1-week open-label lead-in (n=183); a 5-week placebo-controlled, double-blind phase (n=165); a 5-week double-blind, parallel phase (n=114); and 10 months of open-label maintenance (n=140 entered, 95 completed). Mean total daily MPH doses rose from the titration trial best dose, 14.1 (+/-8.1) mg/day, to 20.5 (+/-9.7) mg/day mean total daily dose at the end of maintenance. Pulse, blood pressure, and the presence of treatment emergent adverse events (AEs), parent and teacher AE ratings, and vital signs were recorded in each phase.

Results: Thirty percent of parents spontaneously reported moderate to severe AEs in all study phases after baseline. These included emotional outbursts, difficulty falling asleep, repetitive behaviors/thoughts, appetite decrease, and irritability. During titration, decreased appetite (chi=5.4, p<.03), trouble sleeping (chi=5.4, p<.03), and weight loss (chi=4.0, p<.05) occurred statistically more often on MPH than on placebo. During maintenance, trouble sleeping and appetite loss persisted and other MPH-related AEs decreased. There were transient, one-time pulse and blood pressure elevations in five children. Twenty-one children (11%) discontinued because of drug-attributed AEs.

Conclusions: Eleven percent of preschoolers discontinued treatment because of intolerable MPH AEs. Of the serious AEs reported, one occurred in baseline, two in lead-in, three in titration, one in parallel, and one in maintenance. Only one was possibly related to MPH.

Publication types

  • Comment
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia / chemically induced
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / adverse effects*
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / chemically induced


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methylphenidate