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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 13:17 GMT
Ritalin rise leads to ADHD probe
Bottles of Ritalin
Prescriptions of Ritalin increased 10-fold over seven years
Health chiefs are to investigate the care of children suffering from hyperactivity after a 10-fold increase in the use of Ritalin in Scotland.

New figures show prescriptions for the controversial chemical have risen from 69 per 10,000 in 1996 to 603 last year.

The class-B drug treats Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which causes hyperactivity in children.

NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (QIS) plans to look at how ADHD is treated and why the rise has occurred.

A report by NHS QIS revealed the sharp increase in the prescription rate on Monday.

The body, which monitors and encourages best practice in the health service, will fund an audit into the way the condition in youngsters is being treated north of the border.

NHS QIS will now fund an audit of the care and treatment of children with ADHD
Dr David Steel

It hopes to discover why the prescription rates differ from region to region across Scotland and what the reasons for the rise are.

Even after the recent rise in ADHD, its levels in Scotland remain below that of Switzerland, the Netherlands and Iceland and stand at about a third of that in Canada and the US.

NHS QIS Chief Executive Dr David Steel said: "The increase in the prescribing rate for ADHD drug Methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, raises the important issue of what constitutes the appropriate level of prescribing in Scotland.

"We can see significant regional variations but, until we have a robust, evidence-based assessment of what the appropriate level might be, no-one can say whether this is the result of under-prescribing, over-prescribing, demographic and social variations or some complex mix of all these issues.

"That's why NHS QIS will now fund an audit of the care and treatment of children with ADHD. It will seek to answer some of the questions highlighted by this report."

Social deprivation

The Health Indicators Report - A Focus on Children also revealed deprivation as a factor impacting on a range of health issues affecting children in Scotland.

It found stillbirth and neonatal death was highest for mothers from areas of greatest social deprivation, at 5.3 deaths per 1,000 births compared to 3.4 deaths for those who were the best off.

The report said that the teenage pregnancy rate had fallen last year to 7.4 per 1,000 births, approaching the target of 6.9 by 2010.

It also found that emergency admissions to hospital for asthma for under-15s had fallen to 22.3 per 10,000 of the population last year, down from 49.2 in 1993.

The report illustrates once again the excess ill-health burden carried by children in Scotland's poorest areas
Dr Mac Armstrong
Chief Medical Officer

The report is part of a process of information collection and publication designed to aid the delivery of high-quality care in the health service.

NHS QIS Chairman Lord Naren Patel said: "Scotland has led the way in delivering robust, clear information on how the health service is performing.

"NHS QIS is committed to building on the experience gained in Scotland over the past decade, and making available data that can contribute towards quality improvement in the health service in Scotland."

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Mac Armstrong welcomed the report but said its findings gave him some cause for concern.

He said: "Some of the findings are encouraging, for example the drop in teenage pregnancy rates and the significant decrease in the number of children being admitted to hospital for asthma.

"These trends show the range of good practice and the better management of ill-health taking place all over the country.

Dr Mac Armstrong
Dr Mac Armstrong said the report did cause some concern

"However, many more of the findings give me serious cause for concern. The report illustrates once again the excess ill-health burden carried by children in Scotland's poorest areas.

"The future of children in our most deprived communities looks much bleaker than their counterparts in the least deprived areas.

"The report reinforces the need to focus efforts on reducing the gap between these two groups."

The Scottish National Party's health spokeswoman Shona Robison backed the investigation into Ritalin prescribing.

She said: "There are clear regional variations concerning how many children are taking Ritalin and this issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible."

New ADHD drug launched in UK
21 Dec 04 |  Health


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