Epilepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: is methylphenidate safe and effective?

J Pediatr. 1997 Apr;130(4):670-4. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(97)70258-0.


Objective: To study the safety and efficacy of methylphenidate in children with the dual diagnosis of epilepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Study design: Thirty children, aged 6.4 to 16.4 years, with epilepsy and ADHD were studied during a 4-month period. During the initial 2 months of the study, the children were treated with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) only, and for the remaining 2 months, methylphenidate was added at a morning dose of 0.3 mg/kg. They underwent neurologic assessment, brain computed tomography, IQ testing, and assessment with the Childhood Behavior Checklist at baseline before methylphenidate therapy. Electroencephalography, AED determinations, and the continuous-performance task (CPT) test were done at baseline and after 2 months of methylphenidate therapy. A double-blind, crossover design was used to compare the effects of methylphenidate versus placebo on an electroencephalogram, AED levels, and the CPT. On the 2 days of testing, the child received AEDs and a capsule containing either placebo or methylphenidate.

Results: None of the 25 children of this sample who were seizure free had attacks while taking methylphenidate. Of the 5 children with seizures, 3 had an increase in attacks, whereas the other 2 showed no change or a reduction. There were no significant changes in AED levels or electroencephalographic findings. Methylphenidate benefited 70% of children according to parental report; methylphenidate also enhanced performance on the CPT. Side effects of methylphenidate were mild and transient.

Conclusion: Methylphenidate is effective in treating children with epilepsy and ADHD and safe in children who are seizure free. Caution is warranted for those still having seizures while receiving AED therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comment
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Corrected and Republished Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anticonvulsants / blood
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methylphenidate / adverse effects
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Methylphenidate