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THE ADHD DRUGS

If a clinician decides to treat an ADHD child with medication, it's likely that he or she will choose some sort of stimulant, provided that there are no coexisting conditions. (A clinician may opt for an antidepressant, for example, to treat a child who has been diagnosed with both ADHD and depression.) All of the commonly prescribed medications used to treat ADHD--Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall--are considered central nervous system stimulants, though the chemical make-up of each medicine is different.

According to IMS Health, a company that surveys medication trends, there have been many new prescriptions written for all three of those medications. In 1999, out of the top 200 medications with the most new prescriptions, Adderall ranked 59 (4,140 new prescriptions); Ritalin ranked 142 (2,089 new prescriptions); and Dexedrine ranked 169, (1,735 new prescriptions).

The following is a list of the most commonly prescribed medications used to treat ADHD in children.

NAME

MANUFACTURER

GENERIC NAME

TYPE OF DRUG

DURATION OF EFFECT (approximate)

Ritalin

Novartis Pharmaceuticals

Methylphenidate

Stimulant

3-4 hours

Ritalin-SR

Novartis Pharmaceuticals

Methylphenidate

Stimulant

7 hours

Adderall

Shire Richwood

Amphetamine

Stimulant

3-6 hours

Dexedrine

SmithKline Beecham

Dextroamphetamine

Stimulant

3-5 hours

Concerta

Alza Corporation

Methylphenidate

Stimulant

12 hours

Cylert *

Abbott Laboratories

Pemoline

Stimulant

12-24 hours

Metadate **

Medeva Pharmaceuticals

Methylphenidate

Stimulant

12 hours

* Abbott Laboratories has issued a warning indicating that Cylert should not ordinarily be considered as first-line drug therapy for ADHD, due to increased reports of liver failure in children using the drug.

** On April 4, 2001, it was announced that the FDA had approved Medeva's application to market Metadate in the U.S.

For more information on drugs used to treat ADHD, see this section of About.com for many articles, essays, and statistics on the various medications.

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