ADHD Drugs

"Drug Concerta, Atomoxetine, Metadate CD, Ritalin LA, Focalin; The New Meds." and now Strattera

Pharmaceutical companies vying for Ritalin’s hefty market share are coming up with new formulas and aggressive campaign ads to compete in this $1 billion per year ADHD drug industry.

Pharmaceutical companies introduced five new drugs to treat ADHD in the past five years, with another ADHD drug expected on the market in early 2003 and more are being developed.

The relative newcomers Adderall and the drug Concerta are now joined by Metadate CD, Ritalin LA and Focalin. Another formula, Strattera (Atomoxetine), hit the market in late November.

The new ADHD drugs give people choosing drug therapy wider options. Yet, parents, doctors, the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Agency alike worry that the unprecedented marketing tactics will further drive up demand for ADHD medications, as well as increase drug abuse for these high powered drugs.

Ritalin enjoyed the ADHD corner market for decades. Adderall, with its longer acting formula, jumped in for its share in 1996 and quickly began chiseling at Ritalin’s market share. The drug Concerta, a reformulation of Ritalin, followed in 2000. Then, Metadate CD and Focalin appeared.

Not willing to lose its share in the market, Ritalin makers began developing new formulas, the first - Ritalin LA - reaching FDA approval in June. In addition to these, Eli Lily and Company received FDA approval for their ADHD medication version, Strattera (Atomoxetine) in November.

New ADHD formulas hitting the market is not all that surprising. After all, the market is wide open and growing. New prescriptions for Attention Deficit Disorder increased almost 40 percent over the past five years. Last year doctors wrote 20 million prescriptions for ADHD medications. More American children are diagnosed with Attention Deficit than in any other country in the world.

No matter what ADHD drug - Concerta, Adderall, Metadate CD, Ritalin LA, Focalin… - these have a high potential for side effects, drug dependency and abuse and are closely related to illegal street drugs.

It is ironic that every day millions of children line up to the counter for their dose of meds while the person caught in possession of these drugs without a prescription face felony charges. These drugs cannot be good for young minds and young bodies.

Of the less severe side effects, children might lose weight, have problems falling asleep, have decreased appetite, and temporarily grow more slowly while taking ADHD medications.

Other side effects can include cardiac arrhythmia, depression, psychosis, facial tics, liver damage, abuse and addiction. Some doctors also believe that some ADHD medications may also worsen the symptoms of Tourette's syndrome.

What's worse, ADHD medications do not always work, do not treat the core cause of Attention Deficit Disorder and could have long-term negative effects. Parents need to be clear about the benefits, as well as the potential side effects of ADHD medications drug Concerta, Ritalin and Adderall - and the newcomers Metadate CD, Focalin and Ritalin LA.

Strattera (Atomoxetine) differs in that it is not a stimulant, but it still poses potentially harmful side effects.

Still, more than enough doctors willingly diagnose children as Attention Deficit and cut a prescription. More than enough parents willingly place their children on psychotropic drugs. More than enough teachers and school administrators encourage parents to "do the right thing for their child" to make their child more complaint in school.

The more surprising aspect of this wave of new ADHD medications is the aggressive marketing of narcotics straight to the consumer. ADHD drug makers stepped over a 30-year international treaty agreement not to advertise controlled substances that have high potential for abuse last year when they began marketing their magic pills.

These Schedule II controlled substances are of the most addictive and abused drugs that are still legal. Full-page color advertisement for ADHD medications began splashing across the pages of women's magazines. Metadate CD, Adderall and Concerta ads show smiling children and their proud mothers touting the wonders of such ADHD medications.

Metadate CD, introduced in April, launched ads in nearly a dozen women's magazines this year. The Drug Enforcement Agency sent a cease-and-desist letter to the makers of Metadate CD after the ads appeared yet the pharmaceutical company insisted that it did no wrong.

The Drug Enforcement Agency closely watches ADHD medication prescriptions and its advertising. ADHD medications are most-stolen prescriptions and the most-abused legal drugs. According to the DEA, the drug thieves, drug dealers and drug abusers are almost always children.

Adderall and Concerta advertisements appeared in September, just in time for the back-to-school children. These companies did not name the product in the ad but listed a toll free number for parents to call if they wanted more information.

Concerta manufacturers also began airing 60-second ads on cable TV channels. For the first time ever, Schedule II drugs found their way to mainstream television marketing.

The public can expect continued advertising as drug makers attempt to convince the public that their medications are better than the rest. Thus far, the makers of Ritalin have not marketed directly to consumers.

Strattera (Atomoxetine) manufacturer Eli Lilly received FDA approval as the first ADHD medication approved for use in adults as well as children.

We find this interesting.

The vast majority of ADHD medication consumers are children. Does this "brain disorder", as doctors will classify Attention Deficit, just go away as children age? Or do kids just quit being kids when they grown up and quit being kids?

We at Attention Deficit Disorder Help Center maintain a belief shared by many that Attention Deficit Disorder is highly over-diagnosed. Many children have higher levels of energy, act impulsively, have trouble maintaining attention or sitting still in the classroom but that should not be enough reason to place them on psychotropic drugs that carry a high potential for drug dependency, abuse, long-term effects and serious short-term side effects.

The newest ADHD medication Strattera (atomoxetine) is expected to hit the pharmacy shelves (in the U.S.A) this month to much ado. What separates Strattera from the rest of the ADHD medications pack is that Strattera is the first non-stimulant medication FDA-approved for Attention Deficit Disorder.

Strattera is not a controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act, which translates to the convenience of phone-in refills and less prescription hassles at the pharmacy.

Strattera is an oral capsule prescribed in a once or twice daily dose, which also eliminates the need for school children to medicate during the school day. And, Strattera is the only ADHD medication FDA-approved for adults.

But before you knock on your doctor's door asking for a prescription, there are a few things you should know about this new ADHD medication.

Although Strattera is a non-stimulant ADHD medication, it still poses many side effects consistent with the side effects of other ADHD medications - and a few new ones that adults might find less than pleasant.

Common Strattera Side Effects include (but not limited to):
  Problems sleeping/Insomnia
  Dry mouth
  Decreased appetite
  Weight loss
  Upset stomach
  Nausea and/or vomiting
  Mood swings
  Ear infection

Sexual side effects (in adults studied):
  Decreased libido
  Ejaculatory problems
  Urination problems
  Painful menstrual periods

The following, though rare, have also been reported:
  Strattera can cause potentially serious allergic reactions.

Strattera can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Strattera can also worsen the conditions of high blood pressure and heart disease. Strattera should not be taken at the same time as, or within two weeks of taking, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Patients with narrow angle glaucoma should not take Strattera.

You should alert the prescribing physician of the following condition before beginning Strattera:
  Current or past depression, psychosis or other mental conditions
  Alcohol or drug abuse
  Heart disease
  High blood pressure
  Epilepsy or seizure disorders
  Liver disease or kidney disease
  Pregnancy, nursing or plans to become pregnant

Strattera makers Eli Lilly and Company conducted six placebo-controlled studies in children, adolescents and adults for FDA submission. Early studies suggest that the potential of abuse is lower with Strattera and side effects may not be as pronounced as with other ADHD medications.

Two of the trials also tested Strattera's effectiveness against methylphenidate and stated that preliminary evidence indicates comparable effects between Strattera and methylphenidate (Ritalin). Researchers did, however, state that larger, double-blind studies are needed to better compare the drugs against each other.

We do expect Strattera to become one of the forerunners in ADHD medication, with millions of children on this new drug in a short amount of time. Although Strattera sounds like a viable choice as ADHD medications go, the Attention Deficit Disorder Help Center takes a wary position until further testing is completed and analyzed.

It is important to note that this new ADHD medication is new, with the tests for effectiveness lasting between six and 10 weeks and the safety of this drug only tested for about one year.

The short-term studies showed that Strattera increased the heart rate and blood pressure in children. The long-term effects of increased heart rate and blood pressure are still unknown.

Children fell below their height and weight growth curves on the longer-term study and again, it is still unknown whether this will have an affect on adult height.

Also of concern are the side effects to sexual functioning reported in adult and how that will affect children whose sexual organs are still developing.

In all fairness, these sexual side effects likely would not surface for Ritalin, Adderall or other ADHD medications since those are for children. Since Strattera will also be marketed as an adult prescription, clinical tests were done on adults, which then unearthed sexual side effects.

bio: Jeannine Virtue is a freelance journalist and mother of an Attention Deficit son. Visit the Attention Deficit Disorder Help Center at for effective drug-free alternatives to ADHD medications.

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