Monday, August 01, 2005
Ritalin May Be Linked to Cancer
Last year almost 30 million prescriptions were written for Ritalin and similar drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Out of those 30 million prescriptions, 23 million of them were for children. While they are the most prescribed medicines in the world, they are also the most controversial. The Food and Drug Administration is currently looking closely at a small study that linked the use of Ritalin to an increased risk of cancer. The FDA says that even though the data was flawed, for example the size of the study and a lack of a comparison group of children not taking Ritalin, the initial results could not be dismissed. The initial study included 12 children that were on just one form of Ritalin. Out of those 12 children all of them experienced noticeable chromosome abnormalities that are associated with an increased risk of cancer and other serious health effects in just three months time. Everyone has chromosome abnormalities at a level of 1%. The children in this study had their levels rise to 2% to 3%. The FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health(NIH) suggest that the results of this study merit public concern and further study. This was the first study that looked at the chromosome-damaging effects associated Ritalin (methylphenidate - generic name). Ritalin is the most widely prescribed drug that treats Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. By far the doctors in the United States are the biggest distributers of this drug. Sales rose 500 % between 1991 and 1999. Dr. Randa El-Zein, a M.D. Anderson epidemiologist, said that the FDA, NIH and EPA are taking an interest because it is a sensitive matter and we do not want to alarm people but we do need answers on whether this is a safe drug or not. The FDA has called for a second study to be conducted by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. This study will include roughly 400 children over 5 years. El-Zein also said that the new study would include children on Ritalin or its variants; children on Adderall, an ADHD drug that was recently pull from shelves in Canada because of possible adverse health effects; and a control group of children in behavior therapy. If the data from this second study is the same as the information from the initial study, it will suggest patients taking methylphenidate may be at increased risk of cancer. Which would also call for a study on the adverse reactions children taking Concerta, a long-acting form of Ritalin. The documented cases against Concerta include the child becoming psychotic and children who develop heart problems. Methylphenidates a class of drugs that is used to treat ADHD, which Ritalin belongs to also has other health issues that need to be addressed. The FDA is think about changing the labels on all methylphenidates because of potential cardiovascular side effects and psychiatric events.