RITALIN: Two New Lawsuits Target Drug Sales ‘Conspiracy’
The lawyers that sued the tobacco industry, gun makers and HMOs have moved on to Ritalin as a new target this week, filing two lawsuits in California and New Jersey federal courts yesterday against drug manufacturer Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the American Psychiatric Association, the New York Times reports. For more than 10 years, Ritalin has been a popular prescription drug for children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but its increased use has raised concerns among psychiatrists and government officials that it is being overprescribed. Contending that the drug maker and the professional group have "conspired to create a market for Ritalin and expand its use," the lawsuits seek class-action status to stop "unlawful practices and ask that profits from sales of the drug be returned to consumers." Washington attorney John Coale, a lawyer involved in the suit, claims that Novartis and the psychiatric group have promoted attention deficit diagnoses for Ritalin market expansion and profit. But representatives of both groups maintain that the drug has been used "safely and effectively" in thousands of children for more than four decades and remains the most studied drug used for attention deficit hyperactive disorder. The American Psychiatric Association calls the suit allegations "groundless" and an "opportunistic attack on the scientific process that underlies this effort" (Meier, 9/14). Nevertheless, the medication has been surrounded by controversy since the White House ordered a study of ADHD drugs prescribed to very young children in the spring, and a Texas lawsuit was filed against Novartis earlier in the year. Richard Scruggs, lead attorney in the recent suit, says the defendants "manufactured a disease," and accuses Novartis of false advertising that oversold the drug's benefits while undermining its side-effects. The two lawsuits seek billions of dollars in damages, and will likely be followed by consumer suits in other states, lawyers said (Schmitt, Wall Street Journal, 9/14).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.