European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 347–356

Treatment discontinuation with methylphenidate in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials


DOI: 10.1007/s00228-012-1390-7

Cite this article as:
Castells, X., Cunill, R. & Capellà, D. Eur J Clin Pharmacol (2013) 69: 347. doi:10.1007/s00228-012-1390-7



Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adulthood is increasingly diagnosed and treated. Methylphenidate is frequently advocated as a first-line pharmacological treatment.


The aim of our study was to compare all-cause discontinuation rate of methylphenidate and its pharmaceutical presentations with placebo in adults with ADHD.


This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing methylphenidate with placebo in adults with ADHD. All-cause treatment discontinuation was the primary endpoint. The efficacy in reducing ADHD symptoms and safety were the secondary endpoints.


Twelve studies (2,496 patients) met the inclusion criteria. Four racemic methylphenidate and one dexmethylphenidate presentations were investigated. The rate of all-cause treatment discontinuation was greater with methylphenidate than with placebo, but this difference was not statistically significant [odds ratio (OR) 1.19, 95 % confidence interval (95 % CI) 0.82–1.74, P = 0.37, I2 = 64 %] This finding reached the conventional threshold of statistical significance after one outlier study was excluded (OR 1.44, 95 % CI 1.14–1.82, P = 0.002, I2 = 0). Methylphenidate was more efficacious than placebo for reducing ADHD symptoms and it was associated with a higher proportion of patients dropping out due to adverse effects.


Despite reducing ADHD symptoms, methylphenidate showed no advantage over placebo in terms of treatment discontinuation. More attention should be given in the future to the endpoint “all-cause treatment discontinuation” when making regulatory decisions and developing clinical guidelines involving the treatment of ADHD in adulthood.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder Adulthood Methylphenidate All-cause treatment discontinuation Meta-analysis 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical SciencesTransLab research group, Universitat de GironaGironaSpain
  2. 2.Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de DéuUnitat d’Hospitalització Psiquiàtrica PenitenciàriaBarcelonaSpain