The treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in Tourette's syndrome: a double-blind placebo-controlled study with clonidine and desipramine

Pediatrics. 1995 Jan;95(1):74-81.


Objectives: Because psychostimulants can exacerbate preexisting motor/phonic tics in individuals with Tourette's syndrome (TS), a clinical trial was performed to examine the ability of clonidine and desipramine to modify attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) behaviors in children with TS + ADHD.

Methods: A double-blind, placebo-controlled protocol was used in which each subject served as his or her own control and received, in a randomly assigned fashion, 6-week medication cycles with clonidine (0.05 mg four times daily), desipramine (25 mg four times daily), and placebo.

Results: Thirty-seven children with TS+ADHD between the ages 7 to 13 years and of normal intellect were recruited, and 34 (31 males, 3 females) completed the entire protocol. Outcome measures for ADHD included Parent and Teacher Child Behavior Checklists (CBCL), continuous performance tests, and neuropsychologic tests of executive function. Several markers for ADHD were shown to improve significantly (P < .05) after treatment with desipramine (parent linear analogue rating, parent CBCL "hyperactivity" subscale, and teacher CBCL subscales "nervous/overactive," "anxious," and "unpopular"). Improvement with desipramine was always superior to that noted with clonidine. Clinical improvement did not correlate with drug blood levels. On measures of tic severity, neither drug made tics worse. Desipramine showed a statistically significant improvement on a global linear analogue scale, but not on the Hopkins Motor/Vocal Tic Severity Scale, the Tourette Syndrome Severity Scale, or the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale. Clonidine did not significantly alter tic severity on any measure.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that desipramine may be a useful alternative for the treatment of symptoms of ADHD in children with TS.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Clonidine / therapeutic use*
  • Desipramine / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Tourette Syndrome / complications
  • Tourette Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Clonidine
  • Desipramine