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September 20, 2000 - Lawyers Allege Maker of Ritalin, Psychiatric Group "Created" Disease

September 20, 2000 - Lawyers Allege Maker of Ritalin, Psychiatric Group "Created" Disease

Two civil class action lawsuits against the maker of Ritalin, the commonly prescribed attention-deficit treatment, were filed in California and New Jersey on Wednesday. The class members, mostly the parents of preschool children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), seek billions of dollars in damages.

The suits allege that the manufacturer of the drug conspired with a psychiatric group to "create" a disease, and later hyped the drug's benefits. The plaintiffs' lawyers say that other suits on behalf of consumers in other states are likely to follow.

However, most psychologists and psychiatrists believe that, at least in short-term use, the drug is safe and effective in treating ADHD when it is prescribed properly.

Critics also say the long-term side-effects of Ritalin haven't been adequately studied. This spring, the issue drew the attention of the White House, which ordered a study of ADHD drugs prescribed for very young children.

Ritalin has been distributed in the U.S. since the 1950s, originally by Ciba-Geigy Corp., which became part of Swiss-based Novartis AG, following a 1997 merger. Officials at Novartis, and another defendant, the American Psychiatric Association, said they hadn't seen the suits, although they had strongly denied any wrongdoing in connection with a similar suit over Ritalin filed earlier this year in Texas.

"Ritalin has been used safely and effectively in the treatment of millions of ADHD patients for over 40 years, and is the most studied drug prescribed for the disorder," Novartis said, in a statement responding to the Texas suit.

The American Psychiatric Association, in its own earlier statement on the Texas case, said the allegation that it had conspired with Novartis to create the ADHD diagnosis was "ludicrous and totally false," and said there existed "a mountain of scientific evidence to refute these meritless allegations."

The lawsuit seeks a class-action status and if it is granted, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or CHADD, a Landover, Md., nonprofit support group, will litigate on behalf of everyone who was prescribed Ritalin.

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