Did Company Overpromote ADD/ADHD, Ritalin?

ByABC News
August 8, 2000, 9:50 AM

N E W   Y O R K, Aug. 9 -- Nestor Sosa spent three years and $40,000 fighting to get his son off Ritalin.

Ritalin, an amphetamine-like drug used to treat ADD, or attention deficit disorder, is prescribed to an estimated 4 million American schoolchildren each year.

But Sosa thought his son shouldnt be among them.

The boys mother and school both felt Ritalin, which helps some kids to concentrate, would assist the youngster in overcoming some of his learning difficulties. Sosa, of Chatsworth, Calif., believes his son, now 14, never had ADD. He thinks the boy was a victim of a trend in this country to diagnose normal juvenile behavior as a disease.

ADD is like a catchall, says Sosa, who took his ex-wife to court over their sons Ritalin use. Nobody could give me a straight answer and nobody could define ADD.

Sosas conflict with well-meaning doctors and educators reflects a growing controversy about whether ADD and its variant, attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, are being over-diagnosed causing children to be drugged for no reason.

Conspiracy to Over-Diagnose?

In fact, a class-action lawsuit against Ritalin manufacturer Novartis, the American Psychiatric Association and the parents group Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder alleges the company fraudulently overpromoted the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in collusion with the two organizations to boost drug sales.

The action, filed in a state court in Brownsville, Texas, in May, seeks unspecified damages against Novartis, charging, among other things, that the Basel, Switzerland-based company failed to adequately warn the public of Ritalins impact on childrens cardio-vascular and nervous systems.

Several hundred Texas parents have signed on as plaintiffs, but are not discussing the case with the press. Sosa is not involved in the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that the American Psychiatric Association has expanded the definition of ADD/ADHD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, the handbook of psychiatric diseases, over time so that more and more children would fall into this category. Additionally, it claims the drug company encourages the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD and its treatment with Ritalin by economically supporting both CHADD and the psychiatric association.