Methylphenidate and mortality in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: population-based cohort study

Br J Psychiatry. 2020 Jul 14;1-9. doi: 10.1192/bjp.2020.129. Online ahead of print.


Background: Little is known about methylphenidate (MPH) use and mortality outcomes.

Aims: To investigate the association between MPH use and mortality among children with an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis.

Method: This population-based cohort study analysed data from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD). A total of 68 096 children and adolescents aged 4-17 years with an ADHD diagnosis and prescribed MPH between 2000 and 2010 were compared with 68 096 without an MPH prescription, matched on age, gender and year of first ADHD diagnosis. All participants were followed to death, migration, withdrawal from the National Health Insurance programme or 31 December 2013. MPH prescriptions were measured on a yearly basis during the study period, and the association between MPH use and mortality was analysed using a repeated-measures time-dependent Cox regression model. The outcome measures included all-cause, unnatural-cause (including suicide, accident and homicide) and natural-cause mortality, obtained from linkage to the National Mortality Register in Taiwan.

Results: The MPH group had lower unadjusted all-cause, natural-, unnatural- and accident-cause mortality than the comparison group. After controlling for potential confounders, MPH use was associated with a significantly lower all-cause mortality (adjusted hazard ratio AHR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.67-0.98, P = 0.027), delayed use of MPH was associated with higher mortality (AHR = 1.05, 95% CI 1.01-1.09) and longer MPH use was associated with lower mortality (AHR = 0.83, 95% CI 0.70-0.98).

Conclusions: MPH use is associated with a reduced overall mortality in children with ADHD in this cohort study, but unmeasured confounding cannot be excluded absolutely.

Keywords: Methylphenidate; all cause; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; natural; unnatural mortality.