Health Canada Information Update

CADDAC National Director

Health Canada has just released an information update stating that clearer warnings about risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours will be included in the prescribing information for all ADHD medications:

Previously this warning was only included on Strattera (Atomoxetine). It is very important to read the updated information thoroughly and pay attention to the specific language used by Health Canada. Health Canada states that there is little evidence that ADHD medications cause suicidal thoughts and behaviours, but that they may possibly contribute to the risk. Health Canada has not shared what triggered the update at this time other than saying there have been some reports. Since ADHD in itself increases the risk of suicidal ideation and behaviours physicians treating patients with ADHD are already aware that monitoring for these symptoms is important. Additionally, ADHD can commonly occur along with other disorders such as depression and bipolar, so physicians are aware that additional disorders such as these need to be screened for during the assessment process. However, an added reminder to physicians, caregivers and adults taking the medication to monitor for changes in mood, thoughts, feelings of depression and suicidal behaviour especially when medication is started, increased or even stopped seems to be a sensible suggestion.

Awareness of potential side effects, even when the risk is minimal is important, but should not lead to panic or stopping the medication. Health Canada has also stated very clearly that the benefits of medications for ADHD still continue to outweigh the risks. Parents of children taking medication for ADHD and adults taking the medication should not be alarmed by this warning and they should not take their children off the medication especially without first speaking with their physician. If any of these symptoms are present caregivers and adults should be reporting these to their physician immediately. Treating any medical disorder with medication is always a matter of assessing the risk benefit ratio. Physicians follow this practice when prescribing medications. Every medication has a risk of side effects, but not treating ADHD also has significant side effects. If you have concerns speak to your physician.

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