The Thistle Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.

Corporate Conspiracy to Over Medicate American Children

Two lawsuits were filed the week of September 15 on behalf of children on Ritalin against Ciba-Geigy Corp, the New Jersey based manufacturer of Ritalin, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) accusing them of encouraging the overdiagnosis of the behavioral disorders Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The lawsuits filed in federal courts in New Jersey and California are very similar to one filed earlier this year in the state of Texas and claim that the drug companies and the APA conspired to promote the belief that an ever increasing number of children needed to take Ritalin to control these behavioral disorders. In addition Novartis and Ciba-Geigy, the two companies that produced Ritalin independently until their merger in 1996, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to an organization of members with attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder.

The main thrust of the lawsuits center around two main points. The first is the claim that the two companies began a conspiracy back in the 1950ís in order to boost sales of Ritalin, the brand name for the stimulant methylphenidate. This lead them to work closely with the American Psychiatric Association in order to get Attention Deficit Disorder included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders back in 1980 and then to have the definition expanded in 1987 to included Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder . The inclusion of these behavioral disorders in such an influential diagnostic manual, when taken together, created a huge market for their product that has continued to grow every year. Today nearly 3 million school age children are taking Ritalin which works out to roughly 4 to 12 percent of children being heavily medicated. The symptoms of these disorders were said to include impulsive behavior and difficulty sitting still in addition to many others, which can all easily be explained by the lack of extensive physical exercise by children today and the increasing size of most classrooms. This realization has lead to serious questions about whether young children are being overmedicated for simply acting like children. The second point of the lawsuits charges that the drug companies issued misleading statements and sales literature about Ritalinís effectiveness against these disorders without ever advising that Ritalin usage would not stimulate or improve academic performance or have any long term success at controlling ADD or ADHD.

The failure of Congressional hearings earlier this year on whether Ritalin is being over prescribed to lead to any meaningful action means that the fate of these children as well as those of the future must now be decided in the courts.


The Thistle Volume 13, Number 2: Sept./Oct., 2000.