ADHD Medication Use Increasing Among Reproductive-Aged Women

ADHD medication prescriptions are increasingly common among privately insured, reproductive-aged women.

From 2003 to 2015, the percentage of privately insured women aged 15–44 years who filled a prescription for an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication more than tripled, according to a new study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

“Given that half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, ADHD medication use among reproductive-aged women might result in early pregnancy exposure, a critical period for fetal development,” the authors note. In order to better quantify the population at risk for potential exposure to ADHD treatments, researchers analyzed trends in ADHD prescriptions among reproductive-aged women (15–44 years) using the Truven Health MarketScan Commercial Database (median 4.6 million women); claims were also analyzed according to age group, geographic region, and drug class. 

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The results showed a 344% increase in the percentage of reproductive-aged women who filled ≥1 ADHD medication, from 0.9% in 2003 to 4.0% in 2015. The most commonly filled prescriptions were mixed amphetamine salts (60.8%), lisdexamfetamine (26.7%), and methylphenidate (18.1%). The increase was only seen with stimulant medication prescriptions (388% increase); there was no change in non-stimulant medication (eg, atomoxetine) prescriptions (0% change). 

Women aged 25–29 years (700%) and those residing in the South (380%) accounted for the largest increase in ADHD prescriptions filled. In general, the average number of prescriptions filled for any ADHD medication among women per year rose from 5.5 prescriptions in 2003 to 7.2 prescriptions in 2015. 

“The increasing trend toward prescribing ADHD medications to reproductive-aged women highlights the importance of research examining ADHD medication safety in this population, including safety before and during pregnancy,” the authors write.

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