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Methylphenidate (By mouth)

Treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. This medicine is a stimulant.

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Methylphenidate is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It belongs to the group of medicines called central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. Methylphenidate is also used to treat narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is an uncontrollable desire for sleep or a sudden attack of deep sleep. Methylphenidate works in the treatment of ADHD by increasing attention and decreasing restlessness… Read more
Brand names include
Concerta, Metadate CD, Metadate ER, Methylin, Methylin ER, Quillivant XR, Ritalin, Ritalin LA, Ritalin-SR
Other forms
Absorbed through the skin
Drug classes About this
CNS Stimulant, Central Nervous System Agent

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Core ADHD symptom improvement with atomoxetine versus methylphenidate: a direct comparison meta-analysis

Bibliographic details: Hazell PL, Kohn MR, Dickson R, Walton RJ, Granger RE, Wyk GW.  Core ADHD symptom improvement with atomoxetine versus methylphenidate: a direct comparison meta-analysis. Journal of Attention Disorders 2011; 15(8): 674-683 Available from: http://jad.sagepub.com/content/15/8/674.abstract

A meta-analyses comparing atomoxetine with methylphenidate for treatment of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Bibliographic details: Xv PR, Fang ZM.  A meta-analyses comparing atomoxetine with methylphenidate for treatment of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2009; 9(3): 346-349 Available from: http://www.cjebm.org.cn/oa/DArticle.aspx?type=view&id=090318

A systematic review and economic model of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of methylphenidate, dexamfetamine and atomoxetine for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents

This review concluded that drug treatment was more effective than no drug treatment, but there was insufficient evidence to compare different drugs for effectiveness or safety. This was a well-conducted review and the authors' conclusions are likely to be reliable.

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Summaries for consumers

Treatment Options for ADHD in Children and Teens: A Review of Research for Parents and Caregivers

This summary discusses the different types of treatment for ADHD. It explains what research says about how each treatment improves symptoms and the risks involved with each treatment. It can help you talk with the doctor about ADHD and your child.

Medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children with tics

As many as half of all children with tic disorders also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Symptoms of ADHD are often more disabling for children than their tics. Historically, the reported ability of stimulant medications to worsen tics has limited their use in children who have both a chronic tic disorder and ADHD. To evaluate evidence for this reported phenomenon we searched for clinical trials of medications for ADHD used specifically in children with tic disorders. The trials indicate that a number of stimulant and non‐stimulant medications are safe and effective treatments for ADHD symptoms and do not worsen tics. High dose stimulants may transiently worsen tics in some children, and worsening tics may limit dose increases of stimulants in some children, but in the majority of children both tics and ADHD symptoms improve with use of stimulant medications.

Efficacy of pharmacological treatments for fatigue associated with advanced disease

Fatigue in advanced disease such as cancer can be described as a subjective feeling of tiredness, weakness, or lack of energy. It is debilitating, impacting daily activity and quality of life, and continues to be a frequent challenge in palliative care. Underlying mechanisms are still not understood, which complicates its treatment. Although various pharmacological approaches have been examined, it has not been possible to recommend a specific treatment for fatigue based on scientific evidence. In this review, we aimed to identify substances that alleviate fatigue in advanced disease. We identified 22 studies for analysis, reporting fatigue treatment in 1632 participants, examining neurological diseases (multiple sclerosis (10), postpolio syndrome (1)), different types of cancer (6), HIV (4), and end‐stage chronic lung disease (1). The identified therapeutic drugs can be considered as drugs interacting with the central nervous system, hormones, anti‐inflammatory substances, or food supplement. Unfortunately, most studies included relatively small numbers of participants and research methodology was often heterogenous, resulting in weak and inconclusive data. Thus, based on the limited evidence, the authors still cannot recommend a specific drug for the treatment of fatigue in palliative care, although amantadine in multiple sclerosis and methylphenidate in cancer patients showed a superior effect. Interestingly, the literature search did not reflect the common clinical practice of using corticosteroids (drugs interacting with the immune system) for the treatment of fatigue in palliative care, since there was a lack of such studies. However, future research on psychostimulants and corticosteroids may be promising. In addition, consensus is needed concerning the measurement of fatigue in advanced disease (e.g. which scale should be used).

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