Use of attention-deficit medications surges 369 percent in children under 5

A recent drug trend report issued by Medco Health Solutions paints a surprising picture of how difficult it is to get little Johnny to sit still in class or concentrate long enough to tie his shoes. The report, reviewing utilization and drug costs, describes a startling disparity between antibiotics, asthma, allergy, and behavioral medications.

Spending on drugs that are primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) surged 369 percent for children under age 5. In children over age 5, utilization of medication to treat ADHD rose 40 percent, with drug costs rising 183 percent. Further, 9 percent of all children taking one medication were taking an agent to treat a behavior-related condition.

“This analysis provides a striking commentary on the state of pediatric treatment in this country, as well as the costs shouldered by parents whose children live with these conditions,” says Robert Epstein, MD, chief medical officer at Medco Health Solutions. “Early detection and appropriate treatment of these conditions is extremely important, but the emphasis is on ‘appropriate’ with an eye on cost-effective therapy, as well.”

The report reviewed the prescription data of 300,000 children ages 19 and younger in four major categories of behavioral medications used to treat a variety of conditions, including ADHD, depression, autism, and conduct disorders.

Children continue to predominantly use antibiotics, allergy, and asthma medications, but the rate of increase in utilization and cost for these categories has been more moderate over the past four years. Antibiotics showed no change in utilization, allergy medication use rose 3 percent, and asthma medication use rose 12 percent.

ADHD medication spending outpaces antibiotics, allergy, and asthma treatments, 2000-2003