More adults taking ADHD drugs given to kids to stay focused

The incidence of attention deficit disorder (ADD), with or without hyperactivity (ADHD), appears to be increasing globally, and not just among children. The condition is usually diagnosed in childhood, and is often shown to persist into adulthood. In the US, more adults than children are now taking powerful, psychiatric drugs to treat the disorder. Scandinavian countries, and some parts of Europe are following suit. Ironically, these drugs are stimulants, yet are shown to work to improve focus and concentration span in some people. Like all pharmaceuticals, they come with a wide range of side effects, some of which can be deadly. Bloomberg writer Makiko Kitamura looks at what’s behind the increased demand for adult use of the dangerous drugs. – Marika Sboros

By Makiko Kitamura

Attention deficit
Picture: Facebook

(Bloomberg) – ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, isn’t just for kids anymore.

Adults in the US  have overtaken children in taking medication for the condition and accounted for 53 percent of the industrywide 63 million prescriptions for ADHD drugs last year, according to data compiled by Shire Plc, which makes the top- selling Vyvanse treatment.

That compared with 39 percent in 2007, the Dublin-based drugmaker said.

The market shift, which refutes the common perception that ADHD is a paediatric condition, has occurred partly because the disorder persists into adulthood, according to studies. More parents of children with ADHD –which leads to restlessness, lack of focus and impulsive behaviour – are also getting diagnosed amid a growing awareness that it can be inherited.

“We’ve shifted more effort into the adult ADHD market, which is now more than half of the overall market and has the highest growth,” Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov said in a recent conference call with analysts.

“It’s growing fast, almost twice as fast as the overall market.”

Shire’s Vyvanse, which is approved to treat both children ages six to 17 and adults, commanded half the branded market for ADHD drugs globally last year. The company’s efforts to tap the growing market are focused on having sales representatives educate doctors about results from clinical trials involving adults.

Sales of the drug rose 18 percent to $1.4 billion last year, buttressing its place as Shire’s bestseller. That far exceeded income for its closest branded competitor, Johnson & Johnson’s Concerta, which brought in $599 million, and Novartis AG’s Ritalin. Both of those drugs have lost patent protection.

Broader uses

The focus on adults adds to Shire’s efforts to wring more sales out of its ADHD portfolio. The company reformulated its Adderall drug, which has generic competitors, into a long-acting treatment for adults that lasts 16 hours and plans to seek approval from U.S. regulators by the second quarter of 2017. Shire also won authorization to add treatment of binge-eating disorder as a new use for Vyvanse in January.

In Europe, children are still by far the larger segment, making up 74 percent of ADHD patients in 2014.

“It is important to note that the level of acceptance, diagnosis and available medications for ADHD are more limited in Europe than the US,” Shire said in an e-mailed statement.

That is starting to change, especially in Scandinavia and countries such as Germany and Spain, according to Ornskov.

“Sweden is one of our fastest uptick markets, even beating the benchmarks for the US,” he said.

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