Although some people who are sufferers claim great improvements with ADHD drugs, the broad criteria and aggressive marketing from drug companies leave open the possibility that many more people will become medicated who really don't need to.
Big Pharma is cashing in no doubt, but at what cost?
Even people who say they or their children are sufferers can't ignore the lucrative ADHD franchise Big Pharma has built off the disease. Examples of prices on ADHD drugs for 100 pills at a middle dose at DrugStore.com in May 2011 were: Adderall $410, Adderall XR $791, Vyvanse $588, Intuniv $579, Ritalin $140, Ritalin SR $286, Ritalin LA $502, Concerta $651, Desoxyn $539, Dexedrine $741, and Strattera $635. The cost of one box of Daytrana 9-hour 20mg patches was $182.
It is no accident so many have drunk the ADHD Kool-Aid (one ADHD drug is actually a grape syrup marketed with the slogan "Give 'em the Grape"). Big Pharma has funded several patient front groups to sell the disease of ADHD without people knowing they are being sold.
One astroturf group known as CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) received a total of $1,205,000, from Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson's McNeil division, Novartis, Shire US and UCB during the 2007/2008 fiscal year--all ADHD drug manufacturers. (Eli Lilly makes Strattera; Johnson & Johnson makes Concerta; Novartis makes Ritalin and Focalin; Shire makes Adderall, Vyvanse, the Daytrana patch and Intuniv; and UCB makes Metadate CD.)
The next year it did almost as well--raking in $1,174,626, from Lilly, J&J's McNeil division, Novartis and Shire according to its filing. There was even a little pork left over! Although the group listed its most significant activity that year as providing "support for individuals with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders," it also spent $330,000 on its annual conference and $114,950 on a 20th anniversary gala that year. Compensation for its then CEO, E Clarke Ross, was $187,747 and the next two highest paid officials earned $130,217 and $121,095. Nice "non-profit" work if you can get it.
CHADD's communications department produces the bimonthly magazine Attention, which has plenty of advertising space and is disseminated to CHADD members and "over 40,000 doctors' offices." Its list of Officers and Board of Directors for 2009-2010 includes psychiatrist Suzanne Vogel-Scibilia , whose credentials include being "a consultant for psychopharmacology projects at the National Institute of Mental Health," but who is also a past president of the mother of all patient front groups, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Former CHADD CEO Ross also treads the primrose path between government and industry, working at NAMI and for the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.
In 2010, CHADD was lobbying for recognition of adult ADHD with the Social Security Administration and "the inclusion of AD/HD and other neurobiological disorders in the definitions/eligibility categories for government benefits programs such as SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, developmental disability, and vocational rehabilitation programs." Hey, someone's got to pay the outrageous $791 Adderall XR bill, why not taxpayers?
Apparently the ADHD adults might need cash payments as well. According to CHADD's Leadership Blog, the group told a Social Security Administration advisory panel that: "A subset of adults with AD/HD is unable to be gainfully employed because of the chronic, substantial inattention and executive functioning challenges caused by the disorder."
CHADD asked the SSA to recognize adult ADHD as "a disability that can inhibit the ability to work, and to ensure that reasonable job accommodations and supports are available for individuals who cannot engage in substantial and meaningful employment without them."
Another ADHD front group called the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), promotes itself as "the world's leading adult ADHD organization." Its president, Evelyn Polk-Green, says she has ADHD and both her kids have been diagnosed with it. She is also a paid speaker and consultant for J&J subsidiary, McNeil Pediatrics.
In 2009, McNeil sponsored a Facebook page to stimulate sales called "ADHD Allies: A Place for Adults with ADHD," which listed Polk-Green as an Allies "Leader." The Facebook page, which expired in August, mentioned no ADHD drugs but provided a link to an online ADHD self-assessment questionnaire, advising people to, "Take this test and discuss your answers with your healthcare professional."
Madison Avenue Helps Sell ADHD
There is another way to sell the disease of adult ADHD and the costly drugs that treat it -- screening. Just as Big Pharma seeks to screen kids for "mental problems," expectant mothers for "depression" and teens for "bipolar," it now screens for adult ADHD.
In 2009, Shire launched a Nationwide Adult ADHD Mobile Awareness Tour, which included a "mobile screening initiative" called the RoADHD Trip. The caravan, anchored by "the RoADHD Trip Tractor Trailer" which turned into a tented area with eight "self-screening stations," traveled the country, visiting major cities such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Dallas. In each city, Shire said it was partnering with the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, "a leading adult ADHD patient advocacy organization, in an effort to assist up to 20,000 adults to self-screen for this disorder."