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Bupropion May Work as Well as Methylphenidate in Children with ADHD

The widely prescribed antidepressant bupropion was found to be as effective as methylphenidate in some trials involving children with ADHD — without the downside of a commonly reported side effect.




April 21, 2017

A systematic review of clinical trials done on bupropion — more commonly known in the U.S. by the brand name Wellbutrin — found that, in some cases, its effect on ADHD symptoms in children was comparable to that of methylphenidate, the most commonly prescribed medication to treat ADHD. If these findings hold up to further scrutiny, the authors say, they may provide an equally effective treatment strategy for the 20 percent of patients who don’t respond positively to stimulants.

The meta-analysis, published in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, reviewed six studies that looked at bupropion’s effect on children with ADHD between January 1988 and November 2016. Of these, three found that in a head-to-head comparison, bupropion was equally as effective as methylphenidate. One large double-blind study did find that bupropion was slightly less effective than methylphenidate; however, its positive effects came without headaches — a common side effect in the methylphenidate group. Other side effects occurred at approximately the same frequency for both medications.

“Bupropion…is a promising nonstimulant alternative with reports of positive outcomes for ADHD management in both adolescent and adult populations,” the authors write. However, they caution that the small number and size of the clinical trials should be taken into account.

“Current findings should be interpreted with caution because of the very limited database,” they conclude. “Bupropion should be considered for pharmacological management of childhood and adolescent ADHD, but more randomized controlled trials with larger sample sizes are warranted.”

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