Treatment of ADHD in children with tics: A randomized controlled trial

Roger Kurlan, Christopher G. Goetz, Michael P. McDermott, Sandra Plumb, Harvey Singer, Leon Dure, Peter Como, Floyd R. Sallee, Cathy Budman, Barbara Coffey, Jorge Juncos, Jonathan Mink, Glenn Stebbins, Paul Tuite, Lauren Seeberger, William E. Pelham, Donna Palumbo, Joseph Giuliano, Madeline Krieger, Jane LaneNancy Pearson, Lauren Sine, Kathy Parsons, Sara Peters, Denise Thorne-Petrizzi, Ken Parks, Grace Kim, Kathleen Craddock, Colleen Wood, Jennifer Randle, Kim Janko, Deborah Lasher, Terri Johnston, Stephen Bean, Mark Riddle, James F. Leckman, David Oakes, Irene Richard, Neeru Sehgal, Penelope Hogarth, David Marcus, Karl Kieburtz, Peter Harris, Stephen Sulkes, Christopher Cox, Donna LaDonna, Christine Brower, Andrew Greiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

437 Scopus citations


Background: The treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Tourette syndrome (TS) has been problematic because methylphenidate (MPH)-the most commonly used drug to treat ADHD-has been reported to worsen tics and because clonidine (CLON)-the most commonly prescribed alternative-has unproven efficacy. Methods: The authors conducted a multicenter, randomized, double-blind clinical trial in which 136 children with ADHD and a chronic tic disorder were randomly administered CLON alone, MPH alone, combined CLON + MPH, or placebo (2 × 2 factorial design). Each subject participated for 16 weeks (weeks 1-4 CLON/placebo dose titration, weeks 5-8 added MPH/placebo dose titration, weeks 9-16 maintenance therapy). Results: Thirty-seven children were administered MPH alone, 34 were administered CLON alone, 33 were administered CLON + MPH, and 32 were administered placebo. For our primary outcome measure of ADHD (Conners Abbreviated Symptom Questionnaire-Teacher), significant improvement occurred for subjects assigned to CLON (p < 0.002) and those assigned to MPH (p < 0.003). Compared with placebo, the greatest benefit occurred with combined CLON + MPH (p < 0.0001). CLON appeared to be most helpful for impulsivity and hyperactivity; MPH appeared to be most helpful for inattention. The proportion of individual subjects reporting a worsening of tics as an adverse effect was no higher in those treated with MPH (20%) than those being administered CLON alone (26%) or placebo (22%). Compared with placebo, measured tic severity lessened in all active treatment groups in the following order: CLON + MPH, CLON alone, MPH alone. Sedation was common with CLON treatment (28% reported moderate or severe sedation), but otherwise the drugs were tolerated well, including absence of any evident cardiac toxicity. Conclusions: Methylphenidate and clonidine (particularly in combination) are effective for ADHD in children with comorbid tics. Prior recommendations to avoid methylphenidate in these children because of concerns of worsening tics are unsupported by this trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-536
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 26 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research study was sponsored by the French National Cancer Institute ( PHRC09_02-005 ).


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