Background: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adulthood is increasingly diagnosed and treated. Methylphenidate is frequently advocated as a first-line pharmacological treatment.
Purpose: The aim of our study was to compare all-cause discontinuation rate of methylphenidate and its pharmaceutical presentations with placebo in adults with ADHD.
Methods: This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing methylphenidate with placebo in adults with ADHD. All-cause treatment discontinuation was the primary endpoint. The efficacy in reducing ADHD symptoms and safety were the secondary endpoints.
Results: Twelve studies (2,496 patients) met the inclusion criteria. Four racemic methylphenidate and one dexmethylphenidate presentations were investigated. The rate of all-cause treatment discontinuation was greater with methylphenidate than with placebo, but this difference was not statistically significant [odds ratio (OR) 1.19, 95 % confidence interval (95 % CI) 0.82-1.74, P = 0.37, I(2) = 64 %] This finding reached the conventional threshold of statistical significance after one outlier study was excluded (OR 1.44, 95 % CI 1.14-1.82, P = 0.002, I(2) = 0). Methylphenidate was more efficacious than placebo for reducing ADHD symptoms and it was associated with a higher proportion of patients dropping out due to adverse effects.
Conclusions: Despite reducing ADHD symptoms, methylphenidate showed no advantage over placebo in terms of treatment discontinuation. More attention should be given in the future to the endpoint "all-cause treatment discontinuation" when making regulatory decisions and developing clinical guidelines involving the treatment of ADHD in adulthood.