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Drugs & Devices > Ritalin

Ritalin (methylphenidate), a drug commonly prescribed for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is eliciting concern among health professionals, patients and parents due to mounting evidence of adverse side effects.  Ritalin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1980, for the purpose of remedying symptoms of ADHD in children and adults.  Following the death of 51 patients taking the medication and other ADHD drugs in 2004, the FDA has issued a report stating that Ritalin may be associated with severe side effects such as heart attacks, strokes, elevated blood pressure and even death.

If you or a loved one have suffered from severe side effects, including heart attack, stroke, or death, contact us to learn more about how we can help.

What is Ritalin?
Ritalin, generic methylphenidate, is a prescription medication that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and in some cases narcolepsy.  The medication, which is distributed by Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD.  Ritalin’s effects on the body have been compared to that of a mild amphetamine or substantial dose of caffeine.

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
ADHD typically manifests between the ages of three and five and is one of the most frequently diagnosed neurological disorders in youth today.  ADHD is characterized by symptoms of:

· Difficulty focusing
· Increased activity levels
· Trouble controlling impulses
· Restlessness

ADHD currently affects approximately three to seven percent of youth today, putting children at a considerable risk for the adverse side effects of Ritalin.

Serious Ritalin Side Effects
As of February 9th, 2006, the FDA has issued a statement confirming that a "Black Box" warning will be added to the labeling of Ritalin and other risky ADHD drugs, due to the potential risk for heart attacks, strokes and increased blood pressure.  The Black Box warning is considered to be the most severe cautionary issued by the FDA.

The decision to amend the packaging of Ritalin was made after the reports of 51 possible Ritalin related deaths of patients taking the medication and other ADHD drugs.  Between the years of 1999 and 2003 alone, 16 deaths were reported in people taking Ritalin.  30 additional deaths were reported outside the realm of the organized study.  The FDA has advised that while no definitive link has been established linking Ritalin to the deaths of these patients, doctors should be wary of symptoms that may indicate cardiovascular complications, strokes, or high blood pressure, in patients taking the medication.

Other serious side effects that have been identified as potential risks associated with Ritalin include:

· Anemia
· Hypersensitivity
· Psychosis
· Paranoia
· Anorexia
· Cardiac arrhythmia
· Death

The FDA will continue to investigate the link between ADHD medications and these adverse side effects, as well as the medication’s impact on psychological health.

Milder side effects that are commonly reported with Ritalin use include:
· Difficulty sleeping
· Hindered appetite
· Dizziness
· Dry mouth
· Stomach problems
· Anxiety
· Irritability
· Depression
· Blurred vision
· Headaches

A Controversial Drug:
Prior to reports of the sudden deaths of 51 patients taking Ritalin and other ADHD medications, the drug had already elicited a significant amount of controversy.

Many medical professionals, parents and teachers have criticized Ritalin for being overly prescribed among school-aged children in the United States.

ADHD is frequently an effortless explanation to justify the conduct of children who act impulsively or exhibit behavioral problems in school.  Doctors too often turn to Ritalin and other ADHD drugs to fix the problem, before addressing possible causes of the child’s behavior.

Potential neurological adverse side effects of Ritalin have also been a cause for concern.  Ritalin has been shown to have similar effects on brain development as would be found with long-term cocaine use.  Studies have shown that these irregularities of brain function caused by Ritalin may be lasting and possibly irreversible.

There has also been concern regarding Ritalin dependence associated with use of the drug.  Because of the psychological impact of the medication, Ritalin has been reported to cause serious withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation.  It is vital to consult the expert advice of your doctor before discontinuing use of the drug.  Doctors should monitor patients closely who are terminating Ritalin use.

Conditions Increasing Ritalin Risk
While there are potential adverse side effects with Ritalin for all patients, certain conditions predispose patients for an elevated Ritalin risk level.  People with a history of the following complications should not use Ritalin:

· Drug and alcohol abuse
· Cardiovascular problems
· Seizures
· Strokes
· High blood pressure

Consult Your Doctor
It is important to discuss the potential risks and side effects of Ritalin and all drugs with your doctor in order to make informed decisions regarding your health and the health your child.  A trusted health professional can be helpful in addressing your questions and concerns, if you or your child is currently taking or has taken the medication Ritalin.  Do not discontinue use of Ritalin, without consulting with your doctor to avoid the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms.

History of Ritalin Lawsuits
There has been a substantial history of Ritalin lawsuits against drug maker Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., beginning as early as the late 1980s and continuing through the 1990s.  The lawsuits, which occurred simultaneously with a movement against ADHD medications for children, alleged that children were suffering adverse side effects in association with the drug.
In 2000, lawsuits were filed against Novartis for fraudulent marketing and excessive promotion of Ritalin and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  Novartis was believed to be working in cohort with the American Psychiatric Association and CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), an organization that benefits from the sales of pharmaceutical companies.

Contact Us
If you or a loved one has been injured by the drug Ritalin, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, medical bills and other losses.  Our experienced legal professionals are highly knowledgeable in handling pharmaceutical litagion and are prepared to assist you.

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