Patterns of long-term ADHD medication use in Australian children

Daryl Efron, Melissa Mulraney, Emma Sciberras, Harriet Hiscock, Stephen Hearps, David Coghill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Adherence to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication treatment is often suboptimal. This can compromise patient outcomes. We aimed to describe the patterns of ADHD medication use in Australian children, and characteristics associated with patterns of use.

DESIGN: Dispensing data were analysed for all redeemed prescriptions of methylphenidate, dexamphetamine and atomoxetine between May 2002 and March 2015 from waves 1 to 6 of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (n=4634, age 4-5 years at wave 1). Medication coverage was defined as the proportion of time between the first and the last redeemed prescriptions in which the child was taking medication. Associations between predictor variables (child sex, ADHD symptom severity, age at first prescription, family socioeconomic status (SES), single parent status, parent education and parent mental health) and medication coverage were examined using regression analyses.

RESULTS: 166 (3.6%) children had ever redeemed a prescription for an ADHD medication. Boys had higher odds of having taken ADHD medication than girls (OR=3.9; 95% CI 2.7 to 5.7). The mean medication coverage was 59.8%. Medication coverage was lower in children from families of lower SES (β=4.0; 95% CI 0.2 to 7.8, p=0.04). Medication coverage was relatively high in the first year of prescription, then decreased progressively, only increasing again after 5 or 6 years of treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Children with ADHD from socially disadvantaged families were less likely to receive medication consistently. Prescribers need to continue to support families over many years to ensure medication is used consistently for children with ADHD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-597
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
Issue number6
Early online date14 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020


  • adherence
  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • medication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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