Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ritalin and Chomosomal Damage--A Small Study Draws Sweeping Conclusions

This is an excerpt from a journal article about a study looking at children who were prescribed Ritalin over a 3 month period. I bring it up to show how studies can be reassuring, but also misleading. The conclusion of the study is that
"therapeutic levels of methylphenidate do not induce cytogenetic damage in humans. Furthermore, our results indicate that amphetamine-based products do not pose a risk for cytogenetic damage in children."

The previous studies which found chromosomal damage in children, could have been more of a cross section of kids who end up having methylphenidate (Ritalin) prescribed to them--some in overall good health and others with poor health and for an extended period of time. Some kids who are prescribed Ritalin are not in overall good health and this study does nothing to reassure me that it is safe for kids who aren't in overall good health. I think the study needs to be extended beyond 3 months--most of these kids are on these medications for years. And the population size needs to be increased to reach this type of broad conclusion. Of course, it is reassuring for parents of kids who are on these medications and it is important that this type of study is done to assess the safety for children. I just object to the sweeping conclusion from a three month study when only 47 children took the medication for the full three months.

It reminds me of the years of studies which said there was "no link between food dyes and behavioral problems" until a clear link showed up in a study in 2007 in England which was then written about in the New York Times article "Some Food Additives Raise Hyperactivity, Study Finds" which revealed even typical kids will have problems with food dyes. There were a ton of smaller studies negating Feingold's research. The earlier studies all used unnaturally low levels of dyes to "prove" that there was no link between dyes and behavioral problems. I am going to end before I start talking about the vaccine safety studies.

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2008 Oct 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Methylphenidate and Amphetamine Do Not Induce Cytogenetic Damage in Lymphocytes of Children With ADHD.


Jane said...

You have some wonderful information on your site! Thank you for telling families that there are other options beside drugs for a variety of developmental problems.
One small objection, however... you refer to a ton of studies said to counter the findings of Dr. Feingold, who first linked food additives to what is now being called ADHD.
While many of the studies are claimed to be negative, a closer look shows that the majority of them were very positive. For example, an early study that is cited as negative showed that 100% of the preschool age children responded positively to the dietary change.
There is a lot of information on the diet behavior link and practical advice on how to make changes at and loads of studies at
Jane Hersey
Feingold Association of the US

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