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U.S. vs Europe — Who Offers Children Better Health Care?

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“America has the best healthcare in the world.” But is that true, or just more political jargon? Certainly Americans spend more than any other industrialized country on healthcare. But America falls short in how long we live—or how well.

The September 25 issue of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that children in the U.S. are about three times more likely to be prescribed stimulants like Ritalin or antidepressants such as Prozac, compared to children in Europe.
The study found three reasons for the difference:

  • direct-to-consumer drug advertising, which is common in the U.S.;
  • differences in government regulatory restrictions and cost restrictions in Europe; and
  • the larger number of child psychiatrists per capita in the U.S.

The British National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidelines for parents and doctors. Parent training and education programs to help their children cope should be offered as a first line of treatment for ADHD in both preschool and school-age children. Ritalin and other related stimulants should not be used in children under the age of 5. Other children should be prescribed Ritalin and its related drugs only if they have severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Clearly AAHF was ahead of the curve with our position paper on Ritalin and ADHD. Our concern was that lifestyle factors and diet were often overlooked and that the prescription pad used as a first option rather than a last resort.
The lack of long-term safety studies and a clear perspective on the effectiveness of Ritalin for ADHD has been troubling for many parents. The recent revelation that Ritalin was linked to sudden cardiac death in children caused many concerned parents to call their pediatrician for a discussion of the potential side effects in their child.

AAHF is supporting the H.Con. Res. 406, a resolution that would include “sustainable wellness programs that address the underlying causal factors of chronic disease.” Please contact your Congressional Representative today and make sure he or she has signed on to support this important resolution (the link will let send a personalized letter to your representative, directly from the AAHF website).
According to the September 27 issue of the Wall Street Journal, the FDA has sent formal letters of warning to Eli Lilly, maker of Strattera, and to Shire, maker of Adderall, telling them to immediately stop disseminating “false and misleading” information about these drugs, which are approved to treat ADHD but are considered to be narcotics. The drug manufacturers printed ads in newspapers nationwide urging parents to use “one pill a day” for their children’s disruptive behavior.
These drugs can have serious side effects. The use of medication may be necessary, but dietary changes, lifestyle counseling, parental training, omega-3 supplementation, and searching for potential environmental toxins must be the first line of defense. The quick fix may do our children immeasurable harm. Let’s err on the side of caution.

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