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History of development
and use of drugs for ADHD

In 1937, a Dr. Bradley in Providence, RI, reported that a group of children with behavioral problems following encephalitis improved after being treated with stimulant medication.

In 1957, the stimulant methylphenidate (Ritalin) became available. Today, under various names including Focalin, Concerta, Metadate, Methylin, and Vyvanse, it remains one of the most widely prescribed medications for ADHD. Although methylphenidate was originally used to treat narcolepsy, chronic fatigue, depression, and the sedating effects of other medications, it began to be used for ADHD in the 1960s and has steadily increased since.

In 1975, pemoline (Cylert) was approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of ADHD. While an effective agent for managing the symptoms, the development of liver failure in several children over the next 27 years resulted in the withdrawal of this medication from the market.

In 1999, new delivery systems for medications were invented to eliminated the need for taking a mid-day dose at school. These new systems include pellets of medication coated with various time-release substances to permit medications to dissolve hourly across an 812 hour period (Metadate CD, Adderall XR, Focalin XR) and an osmotic pump that extrudes liquid methylphenidate across an 812 hour period after ingestion (Concerta).

In 2003, atomoxetine (Strattera) received the first FDA approval for a nonstimulant drug to be used specifically for ADHD.

In mid-2007, a newer way of taking methylphenidate was approved. Originally called MethylPatch, it is similar to patches used for hormone replacement therapy or nicotine, and is marketed under the brand name Daytrana. The FDA approved it for use in children 6 to 12 years old, for a 9-hour period.

Most recently, in late 2007, the once-a-day stimulant lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) was introduced with much fanfare as the "future of ADHD treatment." It is called a "prodrug" because it has an amino acid attached to the methylphenidate, causing it to be inactive "until swallowed." As you probably know, all drugs taken by mouth are inactive until swallowed, but the main advantage of the amino acid appears to be prevention of abuse by inhalation or injection. Since this drug is so new, we refer you to the Vyvanse site itself. Note that they base their efficacy on only two (2) studies on children and one (1) study on adults. Scroll down below the box with the smiling children and read the safety information (small print) that they are required to post.

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Last Updated 11/18/13