In what seems to be an ongoing series of articles bashing pharma marketing practices, the New York Times ran a front page story this past Sunday detailing how ADHD medications have been pushed on an ever-expanding patient population.

Our analysts did a nice write up of the story for our Drug Safety Monitor here so I won’t re-hash the details.

What caught my eye about the NY Times article was a lack of information on the adverse events associated with ADHD medications.

Back in October, my colleague Dr. Keith Hoffman wrote a detailed post about psychotic side effects linked to ADHD drugs.  You can read that here.  And just a couple of days ago, the FDA issued a health safety alert about ADHD drugs causing severe priaprism.  You can read about that here.

Since then, we’ve launched both our RxScore comparative drug safety system and our new indication-wide reports on our AdverseEvents Explorer platform.  And they reveal some worrying information.

Posted below is our RxScore spectrum for ADHD drugs.  The black line shows the average score for drugs in the indication, the red lines show drugs with a higher (more dangerous) score, and the green show the ones with the lower (less dangerous) scores.


What’s telling is that the more widely prescribed drugs (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) all score on the higher (more dangerous) end of the spectrum.  Note that both the rate of reporting and the rate of prescribing are specifically discounted out of our RxScore algorithm, so neither issue can influence the score.

As the Times article points out, there is a subset of the population for which ADHD drugs are needed. Whether and why the pharma marketing machine has pushed them onto a wider population is debatable.

But my question is this – if you’re going to prescribe these medications (for any reason) – why are you prescribing the ones with the most dangerous safety profiles?


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Brian Overstreet

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Topics: Drug / Indication Information

Brian Overstreet

Written by Brian Overstreet