RITALIN: Los Angeles Times Calls for More Research
Noting that a courtroom is "the wrong place" to resolve the "polarizing debate" over the increased use of the drug Ritalin to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, a Los Angeles Times editorial argues that increased government research is needed to settle the dispute. Citing the class-action lawsuits filed last month in California and New Jersey as examples of "cynical attempts to mine the [pharmaceutical] industry's deep pockets," the editorial argues that the funding of a disease advocacy group by the drug company that makes Ritalin is "perfectly legal, if somewhat troubling." However, the lawsuits "do help underscore the legitimate fears of parents who question the use of Ritalin," the editorial says. Ritalin use among children nearly tripled in the late 1990s, and earlier this year, members of Congress and the White House called for an investigation by the National Institute of Mental Health into the "sharp increase" in the drug's use. The studies were originally meant to discover whether the rise "might signify a growing tendency in the United States to explain away behavioral problems as hard-wired organic brain diseases," but instead focused on "more limited issues," such as the safety of long term use of Ritalin in children. "Part of the problem with Ritalin use, or overuse, is that the definition of ADHD is ambiguous," the Times states. Although "science is unlikely to resolve [the issue] soon," the NIMH "can and should do more to address parents' specific worries," -- such as why the United States' usage of Ritalin is "dramatically" higher than that of other countries and whether the drug is "being used too hastily" since it provides "an easier solution than other interventions." The editorial concludes, "As the recent lawsuits suggest, if parents don't get better guidance soon, they may increasingly take their case to the courts. That may be a way to vent frustration, but it would hardly provide solutions" (Los Angeles Times, 10/27).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.