Prescription of methylphenidate to children and youth, 1990--1996

Miller, Anton R.; Lalonde, Christopher E.; McGrail, Kimberlyn M.; Armstrong, Robert W.
November 2001
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;11/27/2001, Vol. 165 Issue 11, p1489
Academic Journal
Abstract Background There are concerns about the frequency and appropriateness of psychostimulant drug prescription to children. In order to identify unusual or unexpected patterns of use or prescribing, we reviewed prescription of methylphenidate (Ritalin) to children and adolescents aged 19 years or less in British Columbia between 1990 and 1996. Methods We obtained information about patients, physicians and prescriptions from British Columbia's Triplicate Prescription Program database for controlled drugs. Prescription data were available for the period Jan. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 1996. Linkage with the BC Linked Health Dataset provided additional demographic and health information. Results In 1990, 1715 children received at least 1 prescription for methylphenidate (1.9 per 1000 children). By 1996, the number had increased to 10 881 children (11.0 per 1000). Because some children were prescribed methylphenidate in more than 1 year, we also calculated the frequency with which the drug was prescribed to children who had never received it before. This rate increased from 1.0 per 1000 children in 1990 to 4.7 per 1000 in 1995; the rate fell in 1996 to 3.5 per 1000. The number of children receiving methylphenidate varied across health regions of the province, from 12.0 to 35.4 per 1000. Use also varied by socioeconomic status quintile: in the 2 lowest (least privileged) quintiles, 21.6 per 1000 children received methylphenidate, compared with 18.4 per 1000 in the 3 highest quintiles (relative risk 1.2, 95% confidence interval 1.1-1.2). Pediatricians and psychiatrists wrote 23% and 21% of all prescriptions respectively. General practitioners accounted for 56% of all prescriptions and 41% of initial methylphenidate prescriptions. A claim for prior specialist consultation was found in 30% of such cases. Many of the children who received more than 10 prescriptions had seen 4 or more physicians. The average daily dosage prescribed differed little among general pract...


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