Companies Begin to Market Behavioral Drugs Directly to Parents
In a front page story Sunday, the New York Times reports on the "increasingly pitched battle" over Ritalin and other drugs used to treat millions of school children with behavioral and emotional problems. Some drug companies have "violat[ed] the spirit" of 30-year-old international marketing restrictions and are beginning to advertise such medications directly to parents, "selling the idea that drugs may be the answer to their children's problems in school." Under a 1971 international treaty, drug makers have never marketed Schedule II controlled substances such Ritalin, Metadate CD and Adderall -- the "most addictive" legal substances on the market -- directly to consumers, but no federal law prohibits direct-to-consumer advertising. But British drug maker Celltech Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Metadate CD, has launched an "unparalleled" advertising campaign to promote the drug. "Celltech has stepped up and beyond everyone else by advertising a drug with a high potential for abuse," Terry Woodworth, deputy director of the Office of Diversion Control at the Drug Enforcement Administration, said. Celltech COO Ian Garland said that the FDA has approved the ads, adding that the company was only targeting parents of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The FDA said that the company could market the drug to consumers "as long as their dangers are described" in the ads. Some parents and doctors "welcome" the ads, which they maintain "hel[p] inform parents of new treatments." However, Evelyn Green, president of Children and Adults with ADHD, said, "The danger of the ads is that parents could get the message that medication is all there is." Meanwhile, several states -- including Minnesota and Connecticut -- have begun a "legislative push" to prevent schools from recommending or requiring that parents place children with ADHD and similar disorders on medication (Zernike/Peterson, New York Times, 8/19).