Methylphenidate treatment is not indicated in all children with ADHD and the decision to use the drug must be based on a very thorough assessment of the severity and chronicity of the child's symptoms in relation to the child's age.
Long-term use (more than 12 months) in children and adolescents
The safety and efficacy of long-term use of methylphenidate has not been systematically evaluated in controlled trials. Methylphenidate treatment should not and need not, be indefinite. Methylphenidate treatment is usually discontinued during or after puberty. Patients on long-term therapy (i.e. over 12 months) must have careful ongoing monitoring according to the guidance in sections 4.2 and 4.4. for cardiovascular status, growth, appetite, development of de novo or worsening of pre-existing psychiatric disorders. Psychiatric disorders to monitor for are described below, and include (but are not limited to) motor or vocal tics, aggressive or hostile behaviour, agitation, anxiety, depression, psychosis, mania, delusions, irritability, lack of spontaneity, withdrawal and excessive perseveration.
The physician who elects to use methylphenidate for extended periods (over 12 months) in children and adolescents with ADHD should periodically re-evaluate the long-term usefulness of the medicinal product for the individual patient with trial periods off medication to assess the patient's functioning without pharmacotherapy. It is recommended that methylphenidate is de-challenged at least once yearly to assess the child's condition (preferably during times of school holidays). Improvement may be sustained when the medicinal product is either temporarily or permanently discontinued.
Use in adults
Safety and efficacy have not been established for the initiation of treatment in adults or the routine continuation of treatment beyond 18 years of age. If treatment withdrawal has not been successful when an adolescent has reached 18 years of age continued treatment into adulthood may be necessary. The need for further treatment of these adults should be reviewed regularly and undertaken annually.
Use in the elderly
Methylphenidate should not be used in the elderly. Safety and efficacy has not been established in this age group.
Use in children under 6 years of age
Methylphenidate should not be used in children under the age of 6 years. Safety and efficacy in this age group has not been established.
Patients who are being considered for treatment with stimulant medications should have a careful history (including assessment for a family history of sudden cardiac or unexplained death or malignant arrhythmia) and physical exam to assess for the presence of cardiac disease, and should receive further specialist cardiac evaluation if initial findings suggest such history or disease. Patients who develop symptoms such as palpitations, exertional chest pain, unexplained syncope, dyspnoea or other symptoms suggestive of cardiac disease during methylphenidate treatment should undergo a prompt specialist cardiac evaluation.
Analyses of data from clinical trials of methylphenidate in children and adolescents with ADHD showed that patients using methylphenidate may commonly experience changes in diastolic and systolic blood pressure of over 10 mmHg relative to controls. The short- and long-term clinical consequences of these cardiovascular effects in children and adolescents are not known. The possibility of clinical complications cannot be excluded as a result of the effects observed in the clinical trial data especially when treatment during childhood/adolescence is continued into adulthood. Caution is indicated in treating patients whose underlying medical conditions might be compromised by increases in blood pressure or heart rate. See section 4.3 for conditions in which methylphenidate treatment in contraindicated.
Cardiovascular status should be carefully monitored. Blood pressure and pulse should be recorded on a centile chart at each adjustment of dose and then at least every 6 months.
The use of methylphenidate is contraindicated in certain pre-existing cardiovascular disorders unless specialist paediatric cardiac advice has been obtained (see section 4.3).
Sudden death and pre-existing structural cardiac abnormalities or other serious cardiac disorders
Sudden death has been reported in association with the use of stimulants of the central nervous system at usual doses in children, some of whom had structural cardiac abnormalities or other serious heart problems. Although some serious heart problems alone may carry an increased risk of sudden death, stimulant products are not recommended in children or adolescents with known structural cardiac abnormalities, cardiomyopathy, serious heart rhythm abnormalities, or other serious cardiac problems that may place them at increased vulnerability to the sympathomimetic effects of a stimulant medicine.
Misuse and cardiovascular events
Misuse of stimulants of the central nervous system may be associated with sudden death and other serious cardiovascular adverse events.
See section 4.3 for cerebrovascular conditions in which methylphenidate treatment is contraindicated. Patients with additional risk factors (such as a history of cardiovascular disease, concomitant medications that elevate blood pressure) should be assessed at every visit for neurological signs and symptoms after initiating treatment with methylphenidate.
Cerebral vasculitis appears to be a very rare idiosyncratic reaction to methylphenidate exposure. There is little evidence to suggest that patients at higher risk can be identified and the initial onset of symptoms may be the first indication of an underlying clinical problem. Early diagnosis, based on a high index of suspicion, may allow the prompt withdrawal of methylphenidate and early treatment. The diagnosis should therefore be considered in any patient who develops new neurological symptoms that are consistent with cerebral ischemia during methylphenidate therapy. These symptoms could include severe headache, numbness, weakness, paralysis, and impairment of coordination, vision, speech, language or memory.
Treatment with methylphenidate is not contraindicated in patients with hemiplegic cerebral palsy.
Co-morbidity of psychiatric disorders in ADHD is common and should be taken into account when prescribing stimulant products. In the case of emergent psychiatric symptoms or exacerbation of pre-existing psychiatric disorders, methylphenidate should not be given unless the benefits outweigh the risks to the patient.
Development or worsening of psychiatric disorders should be monitored at every adjustment of dose, then at least every 6 months, and at every visit; discontinuation of treatment may be appropriate.
Exacerbation of pre-existing psychotic or manic symptoms
In psychotic patients, administration of methylphenidate may exacerbate symptoms of behavioural disturbance and thought disorder.
Emergence of new psychotic or manic symptoms
Treatment-emergent psychotic symptoms (visual/tactile/auditory hallucinations and delusions) or mania in children and adolescents without prior history of psychotic illness or mania can be caused by methylphenidate at usual doses. If manic or psychotic symptoms occur, consideration should be given to a possible causal role for methylphenidate, and discontinuation of treatment may be appropriate.
Aggressive or hostile behaviour
The emergence or worsening of aggression or hostility can be caused by treatment with stimulants. Patients treated with methylphenidate should be closely monitored for the emergence or worsening of aggressive behaviour or hostility at treatment initiation, at every dose adjustment and then at least every 6 months and every visit. Physicians should evaluate the need for adjustment of the treatment regimen in patients experiencing behaviour changes bearing in mind that upwards or downwards titration may be appropriate. Treatment interruption can be considered.
Patients with emergent suicidal ideation or behaviour during treatment for ADHD should be evaluated immediately by their physician. Consideration should be given to the exacerbation of an underlying psychiatric condition and to a possible causal role of methylphenidate treatment. Treatment of an underlying psychiatric condition may be necessary and consideration should be given to a possible discontinuation of methylphenidate.
Methylphenidate is associated with the onset or exacerbation of motor and verbal tics. Worsening of Tourette's syndrome has also been reported. Family history should be assessed and clinical evaluation for tics or Tourette's syndrome in children should precede use of methylphenidate. Patients should be regularly monitored for the emergence or worsening of tics during treatment with methylphenidate. Monitoring should be at every adjustment of dose and then at least every 6 months or every visit.
Anxiety, agitation or tension
Methylphenidate is associated with the worsening of pre-existing anxiety, agitation or tension. Clinical evaluation for anxiety, agitation or tension should precede use of methylphenidate and patients should be regularly monitored for the emergence or worsening of these symptoms during treatment, at every adjustment of dose and then at least every 6 months or every visit.
Forms of bipolar disorder
Particular care should be taken in using methylphenidate to treat ADHD in patients with comorbid bipolar disorder (including untreated Type I Bipolar Disorder or other forms of bipolar disorder) because of concern for possible precipitation of a mixed/manic episode in such patients. Prior to initiating treatment with methylphenidate, patients with comorbid depressive symptoms should be adequately screened to determine if they are at risk for bipolar disorder; such screening should include a detailed psychiatric history, including a family history of suicide, bipolar disorder, and depression. Close ongoing monitoring is essential in these patients (see above 'Psychiatric Disorders' and section 4.2). Patients should be monitored for symptoms at every adjustment of dose, then at least every 6 months and at every visit.
Moderately reduced weight gain and growth retardation have been reported with the long-term use of methylphenidate in children.
The effects of methylphenidate on final height and final weight are currently unknown and being studied.
Growth should be monitored during methylphenidate treatment: height, weight and appetite should be recorded at least 6 monthly with maintenance of a growth chart. Patients who are not growing or gaining height or weight as expected may need to have their treatment interrupted.
Methylphenidate should be used with caution in patients with epilepsy. Methylphenidate may lower the convulsive threshold in patients with prior history of seizures, in patients with prior EEG abnormalities in absence of seizures, and rarely in patients without a history of convulsions and no EEG abnormalities. If seizure frequency increases or new-onset seizures occur, methylphenidate should be discontinued.
Prolonged and painful erections have been reported in association with methylphenidate products, mainly in association with a change in the methylphenidate treatment regimen. Patients who develop abnormally sustained or frequent and painful erections should seek immediate medical attention.
Abuse, misuse and diversion
Patients should be carefully monitored for the risk of diversion, misuse and abuse of methylphenidate.
Methylphenidate should be used with caution in patients with known drug or alcohol dependency because of a potential for abuse, misuse or diversion.
Chronic abuse of methylphenidate can lead to marked tolerance and psychological dependence with varying degrees of abnormal behaviour. Frank psychotic episodes can occur, especially in response to parenteral abuse.
Patient age, the presence of risk factors for substance use disorder (such as co-morbid oppositional-defiant or conduct disorder and bipolar disorder), previous or current substance abuse should all be taken into account when deciding on a course of treatment for ADHD. Caution is called for in emotionally unstable patients, such as those with a history of drug or alcohol dependence, because such patients may increase the dosage on their own initiative.
For some high-risk substance abuse patients, methylphenidate or other stimulants may not be suitable and non-stimulant treatment should be considered.
Careful supervision is required during drug withdrawal, since this may unmask depression as well as chronic over-activity. Some patients may require long-term follow up.
Careful supervision is required during withdrawal from abusive use since severe depression may occur.
Methylphenidate should not be used for the prevention or treatment of normal fatigue states.
Excipients: galactose intolerance
This medicinal product contains lactose: patients with rare hereditary problems of galactose intolerance, the Lapp lactase deficiency or glucose-galactose malabsorption should not take this medicine.
Choice of methylphenidate formulation
The choice of formulation of methylphenidate-containing product will have to be decided by the treating specialist on an individual basis and depends on the intended duration of effect.
This product contains methylphenidate which may induce a false positive laboratory test for amphetamines, particularly with immunoassay screen test.
Renal or hepatic insufficiency
There is no experience with the use of methylphenidate in patients with renal or hepatic insufficiency.
The long-term safety of treatment with methylphenidate is not fully known. In the event of leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, anaemia or other alterations, including those indicative of serious renal or hepatic disorders, discontinuation of treatment should be considered.
Potential for gastrointestinal obstruction
Because the Concerta XL tablet is nondeformable and does not appreciably change in shape in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, it should not ordinarily be administered to patients with pre-existing severe GI narrowing (pathologic or iatrogenic) or in patients with dysphagia or significant difficulty in swallowing tablets. There have been rare reports of obstructive symptoms in patients with known strictures in association with the ingestion of drugs in nondeformable prolonged-release formulations.
Due to the prolonged-release design of the tablet, Concerta XL should only be used in patients who are able to swallow the tablet whole. Patients should be informed that Concerta XL must be swallowed whole with the aid of liquids. Tablets should not be chewed, divided, or crushed. The medication is contained within a nonabsorbable shell designed to release the drug at a controlled rate. The tablet shell is eliminated from the body; patients should not be concerned if they occasionally notice in their stool something that looks like a tablet.