Kids’ $10m ADHD drug habit



Kids’ $10m ADHD drug habit

By Kate Sikora and Kelvin Bissett

January 05, 2008 12:00am


TAXPAYERS will be forced to pay almost $10 million a year to treat children suffering behavioural problems with ADHD drugs.

Federal Government documents reveal Australia’s reliance on the controversial drugs has already cost taxpayers almost $5 million in the past six months.

As thousands of children are placed on the expensive tablets, it can be revealed the cost to taxpayers has quadrupled since last March – before Concerta and Strattera were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Those drugs, with Ritalin and dexamphetamine, have cost taxpayers $4.8 million in subsidies between April and August, according to the health department.

Despite concerns over the nation’s rate of overprescribing, doctors wrote 50,701 scripts for the two new drugs in August alone. Previously, parents whose children were on Concerta were forced to pay about $150 per script, but now only pay about $30 through the PBS.

Concerta and Strattera are fast becoming many parents preferred ADHD drug due to their longer-lasting effects.

Instead of teachers having to dole out pills up to three times a day during school, children can take the slow-releasing capsules containing a higher dosage.

Despite controversy surrounding Strattera due its side effects – including suicidal tendencies, nausea and tiredness – it has already clocked a $364,910 bill since August.

Australia’s dependency on ADHD drugs is now the subject of two reviews by both the NSW and Federal governments.

It is expected guidelines into how the drugs are prescribed will be overhauled.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday refused to comment on the drug bill taxpayers are footing.

However, last year when she was in Opposition, Ms Roxon attacked the Government for keeping parents in the dark over the use of the stimulants.

Many believe GPs rely too heavily on prescribing, rather than helping families with better parenting skills.

The University of NSW’s Florence Levy has been studying ADHD for the past 30 years.

Professor Levy said yesterday there was a need for medication but also recommended alternative treatment.

“Nobody likes using medication in children,” Professor Levy said. “There are certainly a number of children who are helped by medication.

“I think the reason it’s an area of interest is because people have very strong views on how to raise children.”

Australian Childhood Foundation CEO Joe Tucci said the figures were alarming, especially the rate of prescriptions.

“It reflects that many prescribing doctors are still medicating for ADHD,” Dr Tucci said. “They are not treating the cause of the behaviour, just the symptoms.”

The State Government’s report into ADHD was expanded to include an audit of prescriber’s medical records to ensure compliance with guidelines. It is due to be handed down at the end of this month.


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