ADHD child prescribing rates increase sharply

Source: Speed Up & Sit Still: The Story of ADHD in Australia

ADHD child prescribing rates increase sharply; with Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart vying for the dubious honour of being Australia’s Child Drugging Capital

Australian Government figures indicate that between 2007 and 2009 the number of children in Australia on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidised ADHD drugs increased 23%, with large variations between states. In 2009 children living in New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania were nearly twice as likely to be ‘medicated’ for ADHD than children living in South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

‘This large increase in the Australia wide child prescribing rate was caused by new drugs being subsidised via the PBS and the aggressive marketing of ADHD.’

Queensland, which allows General Practitioners to prescribe amphetamine based ADHD drugs unsupervised by either a Psychiatrist or Paediatrician, saw the highest rate of growth with a increase of 37% between 2007 and 2009.

Even Victoria which has traditionally had relatively low prescribing rates (in 2009 still 30% below the national per capita rate) saw an alarming 19% increase between 2007 and 2009.

The two states that had the highest prescribing rates in the country throughout the 1990’s, Western Australia and South Australia, are now lower than the national average (by 2% and 39% respectively).

Western Australian Health Department figures indicate that the number of children on ADHD drugs has fallen by between 60% and 70% after tighter amphetamine prescribing controls were introduced in 2003. This fall coincided with halving in the proportion of teenagers abusing amphetamines between 2002 and 2008. (refer to the Rise and Fall of Child ADHD in Western Australia and Perth a Case Study in ADHD Amphetamine Abuse.) ‘WA’s history clearly supports the common sense proposition that if you stop giving teenagers a free supply of amphetamines they are less likely to abuse amphetamines.’

South Australia was the second highest ADHD prescribing state in the 1990’s and is now the lowest. ‘This is attributable in large part to the advocacy of leading Adelaide Child Psychiatrist, Dr Jon Jureidini, who was prepared to tackle out of control prescribers through medical complaints mechanisms.’


Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme Child Prescribing (0-18) Patient Numbers for ADHD Drugs in 2009

(source Australia Government – Medicare Australia)

Strattera 80 1721 35 1885 254 89 826 449 5339
Dexamphetamine 57 2554 45 2568 707 360 1391 1529 9211
Methylphenidate 692 19622 304 10348 1643 1334 8105 4239 46284
Total Unique Child Patients 791 22824 366 13711 2426 1687 9749 5865 57419
% over (under) National Per Capita Rate (11%) 22% (50%) 14% (39%) 29% (30%) (2%) 0%