Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is an amphetamine-like prescription stimulant commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. Manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, it is also one of the primary drugs used to treat symptoms of traumatic brain injury and the daytime drowsiness symptoms of narcolepsy and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is claimed to have a ‘calming’ effect on children who have ADHD–reducing impulsive behavior and the tendency to “act up,” and helps them concentrate on schoolwork and other tasks. Adults who have ADHD often claim that Ritalin increases their ability to focus on tasks and organize their lives.
Ritalin is prescribed to treat children and adults with ADHD, and is used in the treatment of narcolepsy (uncontrollable sleepiness).
Ritalin was approved by the FDA in 1955 to treat children and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and acts to reduce hyperactivity and improve a patient’s attention span.
Side effects commonly associated with Ritalin include insomnia, loss of appetite, depression, irritability, nervousness, stomach aches, headaches, dry mouth, blurry vision, nausea, pupil dilation, dizziness, drowsiness, and motor tics or tremors.
It has been reported that there have been at least 19 cases of sudden death in children taking Ritalin, leading to calls to the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee of the FDA to issue the most serious type of health warning (“black box”) on the label. Further reports have detailed 54 cases of serious cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, stroke, hypertension, palpitations and arrhythmia in patients taking Ritalin.
On February 9, 2006, the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee of the FDA voted by a margin of eight to seven to recommend a “black-box” warning describing the cardiovascular risks of stimulant drugs used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Ritalin. On March 22, 2006, the FDA Pediatric Advisory Committee decided that the medications do not need black box warnings about their risks. The FDA declined to include these black box warnings upon review.
Because of the potential for severe side effects, Ritalin is contraindicated in patients who have Tourette’s syndrome or who have severe anxiety, seizures, psychosis, emotional instability, major depression, glaucoma, or motor tics. If Ritalin is taken within 14 days of taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant (MAOI), there may be a risk of a dangerous rise in blood pressure (hypertensive crisis).
What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) refer to a range of problem behaviors associated with poor attention span. These may include impulsiveness, restlessness and hyperactivity, and often prevent children from learning and socializing well.
ADHD/ADD in Children: Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of ADHD/ADD in children include a failure to pay close attention to detail, careless errors during work or play, failure to finish tasks or sustain attention in play activities, avoidance of tasks like homework that require sustained mental effort, easy distraction, running around or excessively climbing over things (in adolescents or adults only feelings of restlessness may occur), unduly noisy in playing or difficulty in engaging in quiet leisure activities, fidgeting with hands or feet or squirming in seat, failure to wait in line or await turns in games or group situations, and excessive talking without appropriate response to social restraint.
Who should NOT use Ritalin?
Ritalin should not be used in:
- Children under six years of age
- Patients with excessive anxiety, agitation or tension
- Patients with a personal or family history of involuntary muscle spasms (twitches or tics)
- Patients with a personal or family history of Tourette’s syndrome
- Patients with severe depression
- Patients who have taken a monoamine-oxidase inhibitor antidepressant (MAOI) in the last 14 days
- Anorexic patients
- Patients with glaucoma
- Patients with hyperthyroidism and/or irregular heart beats (arrhythmias)
How does Ritalin work?
Ritalin works by increasing the activity of dopamine and adrenaline in areas of the brain that play a part in controlling attention and behavior. These areas seem to be under-active in children and adults with ADHD. It is thought increasing the activity of these chemicals improves the function of these under-active parts of the brain.
Ritalin is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, which means that it increases the level of the dopamine neurotransmitter in the brain by partially blocking the transporters that remove it from the synapses. An alternate explanation is that Ritalin affects the action of serotonin in the brain.
Can I file a legal claim if I, or my child, has suffered health problems from using Ritalin?
If you or your child has experienced any health problems from using Ritalin, particularly cardiovascular problems, you should contact your physician immediately. You may also wish to investigate your right to file suit against the manufacturer of this medication by contacting a qualified defective drug litigation attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of law.
Can I file a lawsuit if I have suffered damages from taking Ritalin?
Possibly. While all medications have certain, anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to inform physicians adequately regarding the known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held responsible to patients who are injured as the result of inadequate warnings, under a legal theory known as “product liability.” Depending upon the particular circumstances of your case, damages may include recovery for any of the following:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Emotional distress
If you or a loved one has experienced any health problems while taking Ritalin, you should contact your doctor immediately. You may also wish to contact an experienced Ritalin lawyer to discuss your legal options. As all legal claims are subject to time limits, however, you may risk forfeiture of your right to financial compensation if you delay.