ADHD Ads Target Back-to-School Crowd

But even with the enforcement of current drug advertising laws, she said ADHD drugs may present a unique conundrum.

"This is a classic example of a class of drugs that is plagued by the problems of both overuse and underuse," Donohue said. "It's hard to fix one of these problems without exacerbating the other."

Even psychiatrists who view drug ads favorably note that there is a possibility that they could be a source of confusion for some parents.

"There is obviously a lot of controversy in our using psychotropic medications in children, and I think that the pharmaceutical industry can make that a little more confusing for parents through advertising," Kurth said.

Balancing Publicity with Need

Yet some say the controversy over the advertisements may provide a surrogate form of regulation by putting the pressure on doctors to truly scrutinize their scripts.

"Public attention to this issue forces physicians to maintain their integrity in prescribing these drugs," Kurth said.

And Walkup added that in light of the undertreatment rate of kids with ADHD, public concern should be aimed at the disorder itself, rather than the marketing that promotes its treatments.

"I understand the concern of drug companies hitting a vulnerable population at one time or another," he said. "But in this case they are targeting the real concern of something that will happen to real kids this September.

"Over and over again studies have shown that this stuff is enormously helpful."

Kurth agreed. "We would hope that it wouldn't be marketed to the equivalent of a candy bar, and we hope that the pharmaceutical industry is not making this seem like something everyone should check in with their doctor about," she said.

But she added, "I still see parents mostly coming in as a result of problematic behavior on the part of their child, rather than as a result [of drug ads]... I have not seen too many parents coming in and saying, 'You must put my kid on this medicine.'"

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