stimulant commonly used to treat ADHD in children, is becoming the focus
of a major battle that may rival the tobacco wars before it's all over.
have now been filed in three states alleging that Novartis
Pharmaceuticals Corp., the manufacturer of Ritalin, and the American
Psychiatric Association (APA) have engaged in "fraud" and
"conspiracy" to over-promote and expand the use of the
stimulant medication Ritalin (methylphenidate).
class-action suit seeking unspecified damages was filed on May 1 in
Texas by the Dallas law firm of Waters and Kraus, followed by
class-action suits filed in September in New Jersey and California. The
allegations charge that Ciba/Novartis conspired to create, develop, and
promote the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) in a highly successful effort to
increase the market for Ritalin.
Waters and Kraus, who did not return phone calls to ParenthoodWeb.com,
have purchased and launched the domain name RitalinFraud.com
and hired Peter R. Breggin, M.D., a long-time critic of Ritalin and
other medications, as a medical consultant for the case. The lawyers
charge that Novartis has failed to adequately warn its users about the
drug's potential impact on children's cardiovascular and nervous
used by millions of school-aged children to control hyperactivity and
combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). Diagnoses of
AD/HD, along with prescriptions for Ritalin, have increased dramatically
in the last decade. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug
Information estimates that between 2-3.5 million school-aged children
have the disorder.
Novartis and the APA have both issued statements denying the allegations
and calling the lawsuit without merit. In a statement released by
Novartis, the pharmaceutical company accuses the plaintiff's attorneys
of "attempting to try the case in the media" and said that
supporting educational programs and providing educational grants to
industry organizations such as the APA is standard industry practice.
the APA has called the accusations in the Texas suit
"groundless" and "an opportunistic attack on the
scientific process that underlies their efforts." Cecilia Oberjero,
a spokesperson for the APA, said while they have been served papers on
the Texas suit, they have not yet been officially served in the
California and New Jersey suits. "We don't know what will happen
next," she said.
organization, (CHADD), has also been named in the suits. CHADD has come
under fire for accepting approximately $900,000 in financial donations
and contributions from Ciba/Novartis and has been accused of attempting
to eliminate laws and restrictions concerning the use of Ritalin in the
U.S. The organization's official statement has called the lawsuits
"baseless" and "ridiculous."
stand behind our position that these suits have no merit," said
Russell Shipley, a spokesperson for CHADD. "Alleging that CHADD
created AD/HD to help a pharmaceutical manufacturer reap profits is akin
to accusing the American Diabetes Association of conspiring with the
makers of insulin to invent diabetes," said Dr. Peter Jensen, a
noted researcher at Columbia University and member of CHADD's
Professional Advisory Board.
increase in the number of prescriptions written for Ritalin in recent
years, along with the rise in the number of diagnoses of AD/HD, has
prompted much discussion among childcare experts over whether children
are receiving too much medication and whether their behavioral disorders
are being diagnosed correctly. According to the National Institute of
Mental Health, physicians treating children and adolescents now write
approximately six million prescriptions a year for stimulant medications
such as Ritalin.
whether the pending case has merit are sharply divided. Critics of the
lawsuits, such as Bob Seay, health writer with About.com
, have called them frivolous and accused the attorneys and Dr.
Breggin with being motivated solely by money, not concern for children.
According to Seay, class action suits rarely benefit anyone other than
the attorneys involved, and the chances that the victims will ever
benefit from the suits is low.
professionals such as Dr. Mary Ann Block, a long-time critic of Ritalin,
support the class-action effort, saying that the media attention
generated by the case can only help raise public awareness about the
potential risks of the drug. "The publicity alone should get people
thinking about Ritalin in a way they might not have thought it
before," she said. "The conspiracy angle that they are
proposing-that the psychiatrists made up this diagnosis so that the drug
company could sell more product-in my mind is valid. The real criminals
in this case are not the lawyers but the people who market this drug
that is (potentially) harmful to children."
seek to halt what they call unlawful practices and ask that profits from
sales of the drug be returned to consumers. They are expected to be
particularly aggressive because several of the lawyers involved are
veterans of the "Tobacco Wars," in which class-action lawsuits
were filed and won against major cigarette companies for illnesses and
deaths related to consumption of the companies' products.
If you have
any comments on the subject, please feel free to email Sherry