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ADHD Medication Use Continues to Climb, Biggest Gains Found in Adults

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 11:27am

The number of Americans who use medication to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) rose 36 percent in 5 years, totaling more than 4.8 million privately insured individuals in 2012, according to the most current and comprehensive analysis of these medications released today by Express Scripts.

The new report, Turning Attention to ADHD, also shows that the greatest increase in use during the five-year study period was among adults, with the largest gains seen in women ages 26-34, climbing 85 percent.

"The rapid increase in adult use of these medications is striking, especially since there is very little research on how these treatments affect an older population," said David Muzina, M.D., Express Scripts' Vice President of Specialist Practice. "It signals a need to look more closely at how and why physicians prescribe these medications for adults, particularly women, who may turn to these medications, or experience symptoms of attention disorders, as a result of keeping up with the multiple demands on their time." 

Among adults, women far outnumber men in their use of ADHD treatments, the reverse of childhood trends where only half as many girls as boys take ADHD medications. The number of males using ADHD drugs plummets after age 18, while women ages 19-25 surpass younger girls' use of these drugs, 4.4 percent vs. 3.5 percent respectively in 2012.

The research examined the de-identified pharmacy claims of more than 400,000 privately-insured people under the age of 65. The analysis includes trends in utilization, cost and the use of concurrent treatments including antidepressants, antipsychotics and behavioral therapy.

Other findings from the research include:

    The percentage of boys ages 12-18 using ADHD drugs reached 9 percent in 2012, a nearly 18 percent increase from 2008.
    The southern region of the U.S. has the highest concentration of ADHD medication use, with South Carolina showing the greatest prevalence overall: 14 percent of 12-18 year olds are on an ADHD drug treatment.
    The prescribing of antipsychotic treatments is exceptionally high among those treated for ADHD (12 percent vs. 4 percent of non-ADHD medication users); however, the number has been declining in recent years.

Protecting Patient Safety

While ADHD medications can be extremely beneficial, use of these medications can still be dangerous for patients with heart problems, and may cause serious interactions with other medications and conditions, like bipolar disorder. To ensure the proper and safe use of ADHD drugs, Express Scripts' Advanced Utilization Management and RationalMed® Patient Safety programs identify medication risks and alert pharmacists and physicians to potential problems so prescription changes can be made.

Patients with ADHD also benefit from the expertise and experience provided through Express Scripts' Neuroscience Therapeutic Resource Center®, where specialist pharmacists with advanced training in behavioral treatments oversee their care. These experienced clinical specialists are very familiar with the complex medication-related issues associated with ADHD and its treatments, are well equipped to recognize medication issues and can effectively counsel patients on the proper use of these drugs.

"While generally safe for the majority of the population of patients, ADHD medications require judicious prescribing," said Muzina. "Our clinical programs and model of specialized pharmacy practice, which includes neuroscience and behavioral health, provide an important safety net for patients who may be struggling with side effects from ADHD drugs, as well as additional mental disorders that can complicate their care."

With ADHD medication abuse a growing problem, specialist pharmacists are also on the lookout for any suspicious use of these medications that could indicate potential abuse of the drugs. If abuse is suspected, Express Scripts' Fraud, Waste and Abuse program can investigate and, when necessary, will refer to the proper legal authorities. 

To access the full report, please visit http://lab.express-scripts.com/prescription-drug-trends/turning-attention-adhd/

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