The Secretary of State will be aware that there has been a tripling of prescriptions for drugs such as Ritalin, or to give it its generic name methylphenidate hydrochloride, in the past decade. He will also know that NICE guidelines state that those drugs should not be prescribed to children under the age of six. Why cannot his Department give a breakdown showing how many of those prescriptions are going to children under the age of six? Will he heed the call from the Association of Educational Psychologists for a review of the growth of the prescription of those powerful psycho-stimulants to very young children?
The Right Hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. We need to ensure that we have the right data to properly understand prescribing practice, so that we can both challenge bad practice and ensure that the NICE guidance is properly followed. I would like to look more closely at his points and then write to him in detail.
PREVIOUS WRITTEN QUESTIONS TO SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HEALTH - FROM PAT McFADDEN -MP. and REPLY FROM MINISTER.(JULY 6TH 2011)
(1) if he will estimate the number of children who have been prescribed Ritalin or a similar drug;
(2) if he will estimate the number of children under the age of six who have been prescribed Ritalin or a similar drug; and if he will assess trends in the number of such prescriptions in the last five years;
(3) if he will estimate the number of children under the age of six in Wolverhampton who have been prescribed Ritalin or a similar drug;
(4) what guidance (a) his Department and (b) the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issues to practitioners on the prescription of Ritalin and similar drugs to young children.
Anne Milton: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) on 4 April 2011, Official Report, column 684W.
The Information Centre Prescribing Team has advised that this information is not available for children's prescriptions. They have however provided information on the numbers of all Ritalin prescriptions dispensed in the community as follows:
Ritalin is a branded version of the drug Methylphenidate Hydrochloride. The following table shows the total number of items dispensed for Methylphenidate Hydrochloride overall (including Ritalin) and for Ritalin separately for individuals of all ages.
Methylphenidate Hydrochloride prescriptions dispensed in the community in England
Of which : Ritalin