Children’s Stimulant Prescription Rates Greater in South, Midwest United States
Children in the South and Midwest are much more likely to be prescribed stimulant drugs such as Ritalin for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder than are children in other areas of the United States, USA Today reports. The study, conducted by researchers at the pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts and published in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics, also found that white children and children in higher-income areas are more likely to receive prescriptions to treat ADHD. The researchers conducted a one-year study of 178,000 privately insured children ages five to 14 for one of the largest studies ever on how stimulants are prescribed for children, according to USA Today. They found that children in the South were about 71% more likely than those in the Northeast or West to be prescribed the drugs, and that kids in the Midwest were 51% more likely (Elias, USA Today, 2/3). The study's authors said the varying prescription rates could be due to advertising, physician practice styles, parent and teacher attitudes toward the drugs and anti-Ritalin campaigns by parents. In addition, while there is no evidence that ADHD is more prevalent in one region than another, new research suggests that pollutants such as PCB chemicals and other toxins in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes could impair brain function and cause ADHD in children genetically predisposed to the disorder, according to Linda Nathanson-Lippitt, an Atlanta behavioral pediatrician.
David Fassler, a child psychiatrist and a member of the governing council of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, added that "poor access to therapy in some areas," which could lead more doctors to prescribe medication, may also account for the regional differences, according to USA Today. "Research has clearly documented that this is a condition that exists across countries and socio-economic groups. In areas where only 1 to 2 percent of children are receiving a treatment which is known to be beneficial, we need to ask why," Fassler said (Tanner, AP/Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 2/3). NPR's "Morning Edition" today reported on the study (Northam, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/3). The full segment will be available after noon ET in RealPlayer online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.