The last decade has seen a significant increase in the number of reproductive-age women who filled prescriptions for medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – 0.9 percent in 2003 to 4 percent in 2015, marking an upsurge of 344 percent, said the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As per the report, between 2003 and 2015, the number of women aged 25-29 who filled a prescription for ADHD rose to 700 percent, while a 560 percent increase was observed among those aged 30-34 years. The report that looked at women aged 15-44 with private insurance called for more research on the potential effects of these medicines on pregnant women.
For their research, the study researchers used the Truven Health MarketScan commercial database and examined outpatient pharmacy prescription drug claims for ADHD medications among female patients aged 15 to 44 years for the given period. The study included 2.3 million to 6.8 million reproductive-aged women per year. In 2015, the most common filled ADHD prescriptions among women were methylphenidate (Ritalin), amphetamine salt (Adderall), and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), with an increase in the average number of prescriptions filled for any ADHD medication per year from an average of 5.5 in 2003 to 7.2 in 2015.
A matter of public health concern
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with the functioning or development of a person. While some people with ADHD only have problems with one of the behaviors, others can exhibit both kinds of behaviors. Although the symptoms appear as early as age three and six, they can continue through adolescence and adulthood and can change over time as the person ages. Some of the risk factors for ADHD include brain injuries, genetic factors, low birth rate, exposure to environmental toxins during pregnancy and use of drugs and/or alcohol during pregnancy.
As per the report, there is no research on the safety of ADHD medicines during pregnancy. Given that pregnancy is a critical time for the developing baby, there is need to better understand the safest way to treat the mental condition before and during pregnancy. According to CDC researcher Kayla Anderson, Ph.D., and her colleagues, given the unintended pregnancies and uncertainty concerning the safety of exposure of these medicines during and after pregnancy, the use of ADHD medicines among reproductive-aged women is a matter of public health concern.
According to Dr. Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, “Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and women may be taking prescription medicine early in pregnancy before they know they are pregnant.”
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