ADHD guru quits over Ritalin link
May 05, 2007 12:00
Health Minister Tony Abbott yesterday said paediatrician Dr Daryl Efron had "done the honourable thing".
Mr Abbott said it was "not a good look" that Dr Efron was on the advisory boards of Novartis, which makes the controversial drug Ritalin, and Eli Lilly, maker of Strattera, which goes on to the PBS in July.
The move came as Mr Abbott joined Prime Minister John Howard in voicing concerns about the use of drugs to treat ADHD.
Mr Abbott said he "instinctively questioned" the long-term use of drugs for non-life threatening conditions.
He said while he had faith in Dr Efron's impartiality, it was important the public had confidence in the outcome of the first review in 10 years of the escalating diagnosis of ADHD and other treatment options.
The Royal College of Physicians committee will recommend new clinical guidelines for GPs and specialists, who have more than doubled prescription rates for Ritalin and the related drug, dexamphetamine – from 116,320 to 264,296 – in the past decade.
Mr Howard last week said he was worried about reports of over-prescription of Ritalin.
Dr Efron publicly supports the use of Ritalin in some circumstances to treat ADHD in children younger than the current cut-off age of six.
"I want to see new clinical guidelines but I stress it is up to the experts to carefully weigh all the issues," Mr Abbott said.
Dr Efron's decision to step down was welcomed by the Australian Childhood Foundation.
"It makes us more hopeful that there will be an examination of the whole range of issues around ADHD treatment rather than being focused on medication," foundation CEO Joe Tucci said.
"We are hoping the guidelines will provide practitioners with research about all the potential problems that can be called ADHD, like diet, trauma and family relationships at home."
The new chairman, Associate Professor David Forbes from the University of Western Australia school of paediatrics, could not be contacted yesterday. Dr Efron could also not be contacted.