Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents. Stimulants are commonly prescribed for ADHD management. There is clinical trial evidence that some medications with noradrenergic properties such as atomoxetine are effective. It is of theoretical and practical importance if other agents with noradrenergic properties display a comparable pattern of efficacy.
This paper is a systematic review of the efficacy and safety of venlafaxine for treating children and adolescents with ADHD. MEDLINE, Google scholar, Scopus, and Web of science (ISI) databases were electronically searched in July 2012, updated on November 2012. Time and language of publication were not exclusion criteria. Efficacy outcomes were assessed by a valid and reliable parent- and/or teacher-reported instrument to evaluate clinical symptoms. Adverse effects were also evaluated.
There were three uncontrolled trials and only two double blind controlled clinical trials. Venlafaxine appeared effective for treating ADHD. The rates of some adverse effects of venlafaxine were less than those documented for methylphenidate.
While one of the two small controlled trials did not find difference between venlafaxine ad methylphenidate, the other trial reported lower efficacy for venlafaxine. Headache, insomnia, and nausea were among the most common adverse effects.
This systematic review provides preliminary support that venlafaxine may have short term utility in treating ADHD in children and adolescents. However, before recommending venlafaxine for treatment, more robust and larger clinical trials, in particular providing evidence of its long-term efficacy, safety and tolerability are required.