Objective: In the intent-to-treat analysis of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With ADHD (MTA), the effects of medication management (MedMgt), behavior therapy (Beh), their combination (Comb), and usual community care (CC) differed at 14 and 24 months due to superiority of treatments that used the MTA medication algorithm (Comb+MedMgt) over those that did not (Beh+CC). This report examines 36-month outcomes, 2 years after treatment by the study ended.
Method: For primary outcome measures (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] and oppositional defiant disorder [ODD] symptoms, social skills, reading scores, impairment, and diagnostic status), mixed-effects regression models and orthogonal contrasts examined 36-month outcomes.
Results: At 3 years, 485 of the original 579 subjects (83.8%) participated in the follow-up, now at ages 10 to 13 years, (mean 11.9 years). In contrast to the significant advantage of MedMgt+Comb over Beh+CC for ADHD symptoms at 14 and 24 months, treatment groups did not differ significantly on any measure at 36 months. The percentage of children taking medication >50% of the time changed between 14 and 36 months across the initial treatment groups: Beh significantly increased (14% to 45%), MedMed+Comb significantly decreased (91% to 71%), and CC remained constant (60%-62%). Regardless of their treatment use changes, all of the groups showed symptom improvement over baseline. Notably, initial symptom severity, sex (male), comorbidity, public assistance, and parental psychopathology (ADHD) did not moderate children's 36-month treatment responses, but these factors predicted worse outcomes over 36 months, regardless of original treatment assignment.
Conclusions: By 36 months, the earlier advantage of having had 14 months of the medication algorithm was no longer apparent, possibly due to age-related decline in ADHD symptoms, changes in medication management intensity, starting or stopping medications altogether, or other factors not yet evaluated.