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What is Cylert®?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cylert® is a potent prescription drug that is sometimes used to treat severe cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. It is rarely given as a first course of treatment because the drug carries serious health risks. Acute liver failure has occurred in a small number of patients taking Cylert®, and although the risks are small, they are significant enough to raise concern. Most patients who are prescribed Cylert® or related drugs are able to effectively manage their ADHD without suffering major side effects.

The Cylert® brand itself is no longer commercially available, but the generic form — pemoline — still exists. A doctor might reference the drug as Cylert® simply because it is a more familiar name. It is not clear how pemoline improves ADHD symptoms, though it is thought that the drug stimulates the central nervous system by increasing chemical activity in the brain. It raises the levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that play a role in attention and concentration.

Most adult patients are prescribed initial daily oral doses of Cylert® of about 35 milligrams. Children and adolescents are typically given smaller daily doses. After the first three weeks, doctors can determine if it is safe to raise the dosage amount to achieve maximum effectiveness. Depending on how well the patient responds to low doses, he or she may be prescribed up to 75 milligrams a day.

The most common short-term side effects of pemoline include headache, dizziness, stomach cramps, and nausea. Some people experience weight loss in the first few weeks of taking the drug because of a loss of appetite and vomiting. Rarely, Cylert® can trigger unusual central nervous system responses that result in arm and leg tremors, facial tics, strange eye movements, or full-body seizures. It is also possible to experience an allergic reaction to the drug that causes a widespread skin rash, tongue and throat swelling, and potentially serious breathing difficulties.

The biggest concern with Cylert® is the potential for severe liver damage. The drug can increase liver enzymes and possibly cause acute inflammation, jaundice, and tissue damage. In a small number of cases, patients have suffered acute liver failure and death. It is important for patients to provide thorough medical histories before starting treatment with pemoline so their doctors can assess the potential risks and benefits in full. With frequent checkups and careful adherence to dosing schedules, the majority of patients see significant symptom relief and few or no adverse reactions.

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