October 23, 2023

Safety and efficacy of long-term use of guanfacine for adults with ADHD

Guanfacine extended-release(GXR) is a non-stimulant α2A-adrenergic receptor agonist, approved worldwide for ADHD in children and adolescents.

A Japanese research team set out to explore the long-term administration of once-daily GXR in adults with ADHD over a year of treatment. Their primary objective was to evaluate the safety, and the secondary objective was to evaluate efficacy.

This was an open-label trial. Open-label trials are the opposite of double-blind trials. In a double-blind trial, neither the researchers nor the participants know what treatment they participants are receiving. In an open-label trial, on the other hand, both the researchers and participants know what treatment the participant is receiving, which can introduce significant bias. These studies are therefore at the lowest rung in the evidentiary base.

It is worth noting, however, that the risk of bias would be primarily for efficacy, and the primary aim of the trial was to evaluate safety.

The trial was funded by the manufacturer, but preregistered, a way of assuring that results would be released regardless of the outcome.

The study population consisted of 191 ADHD patients 18 and older at 71 locations in Japan. There was no control population. The 50-week flexible titrated dosing treatment period was followed by a 2-week period over which doses were gradually reduced, and then a one-week follow-up period. That means the trial covered an entire year. Of the enrolled patients, 67 dropped out, mostly due to adverse events, leaving 124 patients after the trial.

A total of 830 treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) were reported by 180 patients. One in five patients (34)discontinued treatment due to adverse events. The most commonly reported adverse events were somnolence, thirst, nasopharyngitis, decreased blood pressure, postural dizziness, bradycardia (abnormally slow heartbeat), malaise, constipation, and dizziness. Except for nasopharyngitis, all were considered related to the medication. There were two serious adverse events, one unrelated to the medication, the other a supraventricular tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rhythm arising from improper electrical activity in the upper part of the heart) in a patient simultaneously medicated for a preexisting condition. The patient recovered after treatment and discontinuation of GXR.

The main TEAEs resulting in Discontinuation were somnolence (nine patients), blood pressure reduction (eight patients), malaise (six patients), and bradycardia (four patients, with only one case considered severe), and postural dizziness (three patients) or dizziness(three patients).

Significant reductions in ADHD scores and improvements in executive functioning were measured across the study population following a year's GXR treatment. Again, this was not the primary aim of the trial, and double-blinded randomized controlled trials are the gold standard.

The authors concluded that "there were no new or unexpected safety concerns" and "patients who received dose-optimized GXR had improvements in multiple aspects of ADHD, including symptoms, QoL [Quality of Life], and executive functioning," but acknowledged, "There was a potential for observer bias because of the open-label nature of the study, and the findings may not be representative of real-world settings because patients with psychiatric or cardiovascular comorbidities, which are common in patients with ADHD, were excluded. In addition, there was a potential bias favoring safety and efficacy for continuing patients because those who discontinued owing to adverse events or lack of efficacy were not eligible for inclusion."

Akira Iwanami, Kazuhiko Saito, Masakazu Fujiwara, Daiki Okutsu, and Hironobu Ichikawa, "Safety and efficacy of guanfacine extended-release in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: an open-label, long-term, phase 3 extension study," BMC Psychiatry(2020), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02867-8.

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News Tuesday: Fidgeting and ADHD

A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

July 16, 2024

Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

  • Significant differences were found between the ADHD and ASD groups in ADOS-2 domain scores, including Social Affect, Restricted and Repetitive Behavior, and Total Score.
  • On an individual item level, children with ADHD displayed similar atypical behaviors as those with ASD in social-communication areas such as "Pointing" and "Gestures".
  • Both groups showed comparable frequencies in behaviors like "Stereotyped/idiosyncratic words or phrases", "Mannerisms", and "Repetitive interests and behaviors".

The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

July 9, 2024

Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

NEW STUDY: Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines. However, not all patients respond well to these stimulants or tolerate them effectively. For such cases, non-stimulant medications provide an alternative treatment approach.

Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

June 25, 2024