by Martin Whitely
In February 2010 a review of information from the Raine Study, a longitudinal study of the health and wellbeing of thousands of Western Australian children, provided the world’s first long term (8 year) data on the safety and efficacy of ADHD stimulants. It provided challenging evidence that amongst children diagnosed with ADHD those ‘medicated’ with stimulants had significantly worse outcomes than those ‘never medicated’. Specifically those ‘ADHD diagnosed and medicated’ were 10.5 times more likely to be failing school than those ‘ADHD diagnosed and never medicated’. In addition the past use of stimulant medications was associated with permanently raised diastolic blood pressure.
Some of the authors of the ADHD data review (with a history of advocating the use of stimulants) were obviously expecting different results and tried to diminish the significance of its findings and revised their own methodology after results were in. Fortunately a robust committee process lead by a principled chairperson ensured the integrity of the review.
The Raine Study is a unique data source with the potential for further analysis. The ADHD medication review analysed the outcomes for the Raine Study children at age 14. A further six years of data (at ages 17 and 20) has now been collected. Whether this rich data source will be utilised, and who will do the analysis (and can they be trusted), are all questions that are yet to be answered.