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Parents can provide accurate reports of their children's ADHD symptoms
Finding could help design better clinical trials

BOSTON - June 7, 2004 - Traditionally, clinical trials of drugs to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children have relied on information provided by teachers to evaluate treatment success. An article from researchers at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHC) verifies that parents can be as accurate as teachers in identifying ADHD symptoms and treatment-related changes in behavior. The use of parent reports in studies of new ADHD drugs could get around limitations of teacher-based studies and give a clearer picture of how ADHD affects children's activities throughout the day.

"ADHD had been looked on as affecting school time only, so it was assumed that teachers were the only reliable source of reports," says Joseph Biederman, MD, chief of Pediatric Psychopharmacology at MGHC, who led the study in the June issue of Pediatrics. "But we now know that ADHD can impact all aspects of a child's life. In addition, middle school children often have several teachers, which makes getting comprehensive assessments of behavior from teachers difficult."

To evaluate the feasibility of using parental reports, the MGHC researchers reviewed the medical literature to find clinical trials of ADHD medications that included evaluations from both parents and teachers. The identified three randomized trials examining either standard or long-acting medications for pediatric ADHD. In all three studies, reports from parents were as accurate as those of teachers in evaluating ADHD symptoms and documenting statistically significant improvements as a result of treatment.

"Many children are now receiving long-acting medications that can help improve their symptoms 24 hours a day and seven days a week," adds Biederman. "Our report shows that parents can accurately report their children's symptoms and can assess how the children respond to new medications." Biederman is a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

The MGHC report was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. Biederman's co-authors are Stephen Faraone, PhD, Michael Monuteaux, ScD, and Joel Grossbard, all of the MGHC Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children, the pediatric service of Massachusetts General Hospital, is the oldest provider of pediatric services in Boston. It is consistently listed in the U.S. News and World Report Annual Guide to America's Best Hospitals and was ranked number 16 in the 2003 edition. Through its growing network of community-based facilities and pediatricians, the hospital's excellent care is conveniently accessible to families throughout the region.

Massachusetts General Hospital, established in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of more than $400 million and major research centers in AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, cutaneous biology, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, transplantation biology and photomedicine. In 1994, MGH and Brigham and Women's Hospital joined to form Partners HealthCare System, an integrated health care delivery system comprising the two academic medical centers, specialty and community hospitals, a network of physician groups, and nonacute and home health services.

Media Contact: Sue McGreevey, MGH Public Affairs

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