HYPERLINK TO SUPERB ARTICLE AND VIDEO EXPOSE : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/health/the-selling-of-attention-deficit-disorder.html?ref=health&_r=1&
But even some of the field’s longtime advocates say the zeal to find and treat every A.D.H.D. child has led to too many people with scant symptoms receiving the diagnosis and medication. The disorder is now the second most frequent long-term diagnosis made in children, narrowly trailing asthma, according to a New York Times analysis of C.D.C. data.
Tom Casola, the Shire vice president who oversees the A.D.H.D. division, said in an interview that the company aims to provide effective treatment for those with the disorder, and that ultimately doctors were responsible for proper evaluations and prescriptions. He added that he understood some of the concerns voiced by the Food and Drug Administration and others about aggressive ads, and said that materials that run afoul of guidelines are replaced.
Now targeting adults, Shire and two patient advocacy groups have recruited celebrities like the Maroon 5 musician Adam Levine for their marketing campaign, “It’s Your A.D.H.D. – Own It.” Online quizzes sponsored by drug companies are designed to encourage people to pursue treatment. A medical education video sponsored by Shire portrays a physician making a diagnosis of the disorder in an adult in a six-minute conversation, after which the doctor recommends medication.
“He gave them credibility,” said Richard M. Scheffler, a professor of health economics and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, who has written extensively on stimulants. “He didn’t have a balance. He became totally convinced that it’s a good thing and can be more widely used.”
Drug companies used the research of Dr. Biederman and others to create compelling messages for doctors. “Adderall XR Improves Academic Performance,” an ad in a psychiatry journal declared in 2003, leveraging two Biederman studies financed by Shire. A Concerta ad barely mentioned A.D.H.D., but said the medication would “allow your patients to experience life’s successes every day.”
Drug company advertising also meant good business for medical journals – the same journals that published papers supporting the use of the drugs. The most prominent publication in the field, The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, went from no ads for A.D.H.D. medications from 1990 to 1993 to about 100 pages per year a decade later. Almost every full-page color ad was for an A.D.H.D. drug.
A Shire spokeswoman said the company would not comment on any specific employee and added, “Shire sales representatives are trained to deliver fair and balanced presentations that include information regarding the safety of our products.”
Mr. Lutz, now pursuing a master’s degree and hoping to work in mental health, recalled his Shire work with ambivalence. He never lied or was told to lie, he said. He said he still would recommend Adderall XR and similar stimulants for A.D.H.D. children and adults.
What he regrets, he said, “is how we sold these pills like they were cars, when we knew they weren’t just cars.”
In September 2005, over a cover that heralded Kirstie Alley’s waistline and Matt Damon’s engagement, subscribers to People magazine saw a wraparound advertisement for Adderall XR. A mother hugged her smiling child holding a sheet of paper with a “B+” written on it.
A magazine ad for Concerta had a grateful mother saying, “Better test scores at school, more chores done at home, an independence I try to encourage, a smile I can always count on.” A 2009 ad for Intuniv, Shire’s nonstimulant treatment for A.D.H.D., showed a child in a monster suit taking off his hairy mask to reveal his adorable smiling self. “There’s a great kid in there,” the text read.
“There’s no way in God’s green earth we would ever promote” a controlled substance like Adderall directly to consumers, Mr. Griggs said as he was shown several advertisements. “You’re talking about a product that’s having a major impact on brain chemistry. Parents are very susceptible to this type of stuff.”
Shire agreed last February to pay $57.5 million in fines to resolve allegations of improper sales and advertising of several drugs, including Vyvanse, Adderall XR and Daytrana, a patch that delivers stimulant medication through the skin. Mr. Casola of Shire declined to comment on the settlement because it was not fully resolved.
He added that the company’s current promotional materials emphasize how its medications provide “symptom control” rather than turn monsters into children who take out the garbage. He pointed to a Shire brochure and web page that more candidly than ever discuss side effects and the dangers of sharing medication with others.
However, many critics said that the most questionable advertising helped build a market that is now virtually self-sustaining. Drug companies also communicated with parents through sources who appeared independent, from support groups to teachers.
The primary A.D.H.D. patient advocacy group, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or Chadd, was founded in 1987 to gain greater respect for the condition and its treatment with Ritalin, the primary drug available at the time. Start-up funding was provided by Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals, Ritalin’s primary manufacturer. Further drug company support helped create public service announcements and pamphlets, some of which tried to dispel concerns about Ritalin; one Chadd “fact sheet” conflicted with 60 years of science in claiming, “Psychostimulant drugs are not addictive.”
The program from the 2000 annual convention of the patient advocacy group Chadd thanked its 11 primary sponsors, all drug companies.
A 1995 documentary on PBS detailed how Chadd did not disclose its relationship with drug companies to either the Drug Enforcement Administration, which it was then lobbying to ease government regulation of stimulants, or the Department of Education, with which it collaborated on an A.D.H.D. educational video.
Chadd subsequently became more open in disclosing its backers. The program for its 2000 annual convention, for example, thanked by name its 11 primary sponsors, all drug companies. According to Chadd records, Shire paid the group a total of $3 million from 2006 to 2009 to have Chadd’s bimonthly magazine, Attention, distributed to doctors’ offices nationwide.
The idea of unleashing children’s potential is attractive to teachers and school administrators, who can be lured by A.D.H.D. drugs’ ability to subdue some of their most rambunctious and underachieving students. Some have provided parents with pamphlets to explain the disorder and the promise of stimulants.
Susan Parry, with her son, Andy, 30. When Andy was a boy, Mrs. Parry felt pressured to put him on stimulants.
Mrs. Parry still has the pamphlet given to her by the school psychologist, which states: “Parents should be aware that these medicines do not ‘drug’ or ‘alter’ the brain of the child. They make the child ‘normal.’ ” She and her husband, Michael, put Andy on Ritalin. The Parrys later noticed that on the back of the pamphlet, in small type, was the logo of Ciba-Geigy. A school official told them in a letter, which they provided to The Times, that the materials had been given to the district by a Ciba representative.
“They couldn’t advertise to the general public yet,” said Michael Parry, adding that his son never had A.D.H.D. and after three years was taken off Ritalin because of sleep problems and heart palpitations. “But somebody came up with this idea, which was genius. I definitely felt seduced and enticed. I’d say baited.”
Although proper A.D.H.D. diagnoses and medication have helped millions of children lead more productive lives, concerns remain that questionable diagnoses carry unappreciated costs.
Today, 1 in 7 children receives a diagnosis of the disorder by the age of 18. As these teenagers graduate into adulthood, drug companies are looking to keep their business.
The studio audience roared with excitement two years ago as Ty Pennington, host of “The Revolution” on ABC, demonstrated how having adult A.D.H.D. felt to him. He staged two people struggling to play Ping-Pong with several balls at once while reciting the alphabet backward, as a crowd clapped and laughed. Then things got serious.
The television host Ty Pennington has been featured in advertisements in which adult A.D.H.D. has been marketed by pharmaceutical companies.Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Mr. Pennington said through a spokeswoman: “I am not a medical expert. I am a television host.”
Because many doctors and potential patients did not think adults could have A.D.H.D., drug companies sold the concept of the disorder as much as their medications for it.
“The fastest-growing segment of the market now is the new adults who were never diagnosed,” Angus Russell told Bloomberg TV in 2011 when he was Shire’s chief executive. Nearly 16 million prescriptions for A.D.H.D. medications were written for people ages 20 to 39 in 2012, close to triple the 5.6 million just five years before, according to IMS Health. No data show how many patients those prescriptions represent, but some experts have estimated two million.
Foreseeing the market back in 2004, Shire sponsored a booklet that according to its cover would “help clinicians recognize and diagnose adults with A.D.H.D.” Its author was Dr. Dodson, who had delivered the presentation at the Adderall XR launch two years before. Rather than citing the widely accepted estimate of 3 to 5 percent, the booklet offered a much higher figure.
“About 10 percent of adults have A.D.H.D., which means you’re probably already treating patients with A.D.H.D. even though you don’t know it,” the first paragraph ended. But the two studies cited for that 10 percent figure, from 1995 and 1996, involved only children; no credible national study before or since has estimated an adult prevalence as high as 10 percent.
The booklet later quotes a patient of his named Scarlett reassuring doctors: “If you give me a drink or a drug, I’ll abuse it, but not this medication. I don’t consider it a drug. Drugs get abused. Medication helps people have satisfying lives.”
“Could you have A.D.H.D.?” beckons one quiz, sponsored by Shire, on the website everydayhealth.com. Six questions ask how often someone has trouble in matters like “getting things in order,” “remembering appointments” or “getting started” on projects.
A user who splits answers evenly between “rarely” and “sometimes” receives the result “A.D.H.D. Possible.” Five answers of “sometimes” and one “often” tell the user, “A.D.H.D. May Be Likely.”
In a nationwide telephone poll conducted by The Times in early December, 1,106 adults took the quiz. Almost half scored in the range that would have told them A.D.H.D. may be possible or likely.
About 570,000 people took the EverydayHealth test after a 2011 advertisement starring Mr. Levine of Maroon 5 sponsored by Shire, Chadd and another advocacy group, according to the website Medical Marketing & Media. A similar test on the website for Concerta prompted L2ThinkTank.com, which assesses pharmaceutical marketing, to award the campaign its top rating, “Genius.”
Mr. Casola said Shire remains committed to raising awareness of A.D.H.D. Shire spent $1 million in the first three quarters of 2013, according to company documents, to support A.D.H.D. conferences to educate doctors. One this autumn found J. Russell Ramsay, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school, who also serves as a consultant and speaker for Shire, reading aloud one of his slides to the audience: “A.D.H.D. – It’s Everywhere You Want to Be.”