U team works on ADHD patch

Mike Zacharias

University researchers and Noven Pharmaceuticals, Inc., are looking to produce a better way for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to take their medication.

Instead of taking a Ritalin pill every day, researchers are working on a patch – similar to a nicotine patch – that children with the disorder can wear on their hips.

The patch ideally will release methylphenidate, the active ingredient in Ritalin, at even levels throughout the time it is worn. This, unlike the pill form, will not cause children to experience “peaks and valleys” because the drug is delivered steadily.

“The thinking with this application is it’s more of a level balance throughout the day,” said Brian Owens, the study coordinator in the department of psychology.

Children 6 years old to 12 years old who are already diagnosed with ADHD will have the opportunity to participate in the study. The children’s teachers will be notified by the parents and will contribute to the research by writing weekly reports about the child’s behavior and performance.

Another advantage to a Ritalin patch would be a reduction in children selling or giving ADHD medication to people without the disorder, Owens said. The Drug Enforcement Agency reports people abuse Ritalin by grinding the tablets into a powder that can be snorted for its stimulant effects.

While a Ritalin patch might be an improvement over the pill form, Byron Egeland, a professor of child development at the Institute of Child Development, said the drug is not always prescribed correctly.

“Ritalin is over-prescribed,” Egeland said. “There are some kids who benefit from Ritalin, there are others who do not show much of a benefit.”

One reason for the overuse of the drug is that ADHD symptoms are common among children.

The three main indicators for ADHD are impulsivity, attention problems and hyperactivity. The difficulty of diagnosing the disorder is the prevalence of these indicators in school-age boys, Egeland said.

Egeland said Ritalin use in itself is not the answer some people think it is. Though Ritalin can improve attentiveness, social skills and learning do not necessarily improve.

Children with ADHD often show academic improvement with tutoring and extra help in addition to taking the drug, Egeland said.

“(The) drug is promoted as accomplishing much more than it can deliver,” Egeland said.