Objective: To estimate the increased use and the prevalence of methylphenidate (Ritalin) treatment of youth with attention deficit disorder (ADD) during the 1990s.
Design: Using time-trend findings from two large population-based data sources, three pharmaceutical databases, and one physician audit, a best-fit estimate of the usage and the usage trends for methylphenidate treatment over the half decade from 1990 through 1995 was sought.
Setting: Five regions in the United States (US) and the nation as a whole.
Patients: Youths on record as receiving methylphenidate for ADD.
Results: The findings from regional and national databases indicate that on average, there has been a 2.5-fold increase in the prevalence of methylphenidate treatment of youths with ADD between 1990 and 1995. In all, approximately 2.8% (or 1.5 million) of US youths aged 5 to 18 were receiving this medication in mid-1995. The increase in methylphenidate treatment for ADD appears largely related to an increased duration of treatment; more girls, adolescents, and inattentive youths on the medication; and a recently improved public image of this medication treatment.
Conclusion: The database findings presented serve to correct exaggerated media claims of a 6-fold expansion of methylphenidate treatment, although they do not clarify the issue of the appropriateness of this treatment.