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Re: Treatment of ADHD in Ontario3 November 2006
Mr. Brent Fraser
Director (Acting) - Drug System Secretariat Health Services Division
Health and Long-term Care
11th Floor 80 Grosvenor Street
Re: Treatment of ADHD in Ontario
I am writing to you on behalf of the Centre for ADD/ADHD Advocacy Canada (CADDAC), of which I am a director. CADDAC is a national Canadian alliance of organizations and individuals. CADDAC is striving to enable all Canadians affected by ADHD through advocacy and education. CADDACs goals include:
It is with these goals in mind that I am writing to you today.
- creating awareness within the health care system, the education system, amongst regulators, employers and the public and,
- networking with professional organizations and other stakeholders to maximize knowledge and understanding of ADHD.
CADDAC believes access to appropriate therapeutic options, as outlined in the Canadian ADHD Practice Guidelines are key to success for individuals with ADHD as well as their caregivers and families. This is not the only important aspect of managing ADHD but it is the only one within your control. Therefore, I will address only this issue in this submission to you.
Improved awareness of appropriate drug treatment for ADHD is one step towards improved outcome. A better understanding of ADHD helps healthcare professionals such as yourself, recognize and identify individuals that need your support. It is important for you to decrease the stigmas associated with ADHD. Much like depression in the last century, lack of awareness of the fundamental symptoms of ADHD results in no diagnosis, misdiagnosis, no treatment or sub-optimal treatment. ODB is contributing to the no treatment or sub-optimal treatment situation in Ontario today and you can do something to address this right now.
The Premier should consider revising his '6 ways to help students graduate' to '7 ways to help students graduate'. The seventh way is to improve drug treatment of children and adolescents with ADHD by changing the way first line, once daily ADHD medication is funded by ODB.
D In plain English, the symptoms listed in the DSM-IV for ADHD include the following:
Is this the kind of patient who should be taking drug therapy three times a day? Most pharmacists would say NO. Factor in that we are talking about children as young as 6 years old and the idea gets even more incredible. Think about the teenagers you know. Add in these symptoms. Would you prescribe three times a day medication?
- Careless mistakes
- Difficulty sustaining attention
- Easily distracted
- Difficulty organizing
- Fails to finish tasks (shifting activities)
- Seems not to listen
- Avoids tasks requiring sustained attention
- Loses things
Since ADHD is a genetic1 neurological disorder, chances are the parent has the same symptoms. Is it reasonable to expect parents with ADHD to successfully supervise and/or organize for someone else to administer three times a day medication to their ADHD child? Canadian ADHD Practice (CAP) Guidelines The following paragraphs are excerpted from the CAP guidelines. The mainstay of medical management has been psycho stimulant medical therapies. These drugs have been around for 50 years with thousands of research papers on their safety and efficacy. However, in the last five years, the development of once-daily delivery systems has significantly improved the utility of these formulations by preventing peak and valley effects, the potential for substance abuse and the privacy concerns commonly associated with their shorter-acting counterparts' Even with medication alone, we are now able to improve the main symptoms of ADHD in a very short period of time. There is a real possibility that we can move many patients even further to symptom remission. Research is improving our knowledge about response rates and decreasing side effects.
The major disadvantage of long-acting medications is their cost and accessibility. Government formularies do not cover these medications, although they are almost completely covered by the majority of private insurance plans. This has effectively created a two-tiered medical system where the first question you may have to ask is, "Do you have insurance?" Short- or moderately-acting medications are still very successful but they require more stringent monitoring, multiple dosages per day, and the cooperation of the school. They also stigmatize the child in school, particularly among their peers. This stigmatization seriously affects the child's compliance in taking the medication and his/her self-esteem.'
Carrie Fisher, a famous actress with bipolar disorder, referred to herself as a 'mental diabetic' in answer to the question - Is there a day that you can go without taking any pills?2 This common man way of describing the need for appropriate treatment of neurological disorders provides a useful image when considering the need for continuous treatment of ADHD symptoms (symptoms listed above) during the school day, while doing homework and at extra-curricular activities. CAP guidelines recommend once-daily delivery systems as the ONLY first line agents (See Attachment 1). The reasons for this are numerous and I have summarized them here from the perspective of the patient, the caregiver and the family members. Second line agents (covered on the ODB Formulary) require three times daily dosing because of their short half-lives and consequent short duration of action. For example, immediate release methylphenidate has a duration of action of about 3 to 5 hours. This means, to cover a child in grade 8 who is doing about 1 hour of homework each night and participating in after school programs, the child must take a dose before school, a dose at lunch and a dose after school. This scenario poses several problems detailed in the following sections.
1. Peaks and Valleys
Remember the symptoms listed above. Consider that the second line agents currently funded by ODB are powerful centrally acting chemicals. By their pharmacokinetic nature blood levels of these powerful chemicals move in and out of the therapeutic range several times a day resulting in changes in brain function. Imagine a roller coaster ride of emotions, three times a day, from a child's perspective. Imagine going on this ride while you are in a classroom with 29 other students and one teacher. Imagine that you are expected to sit quietly in your seat, not speak out of turn and focus all your attention on one person who may be talking about something you have no understanding of. I think you can see, from a child's perspective, this is just not acceptable. You can prevent this roller coaster ride by covering first line, once daily ADHD medications as general listings. 2. Periods of the day with no coverage, also known as 'therapeutic gap'.
Essentially the medication is wearing off at critical times of the day.
This is like asking a child with vision problems to do their school work without their glasses or asking a child with hearing problems to listen to the teacher without their hearing aid or asking a child with diabetes to do anything at all without their insulin.
- End of the morning classes - results in missed educational opportunities and potential for disruptive behaviour affecting other students learning.
- Lunch period (often unsupervised) - results in social and behaviour problems leading to unnecessary discipline issues and or stigmatization.
- End of the afternoon classes - results in missed educational opportunities and potential for disruptive behaviour affecting other students learning. In addition, this is the time when children are expected to identify their homework for the night and gather together all needed materials, a challenge at the best of times and impossible without support (review the symptoms above).
- Transportation home (either unsupervised or during bus time) - results in social and behaviour problems leading to unnecessary discipline issues and or stigmatization.
What does this mean to ODB? I assume ODB has no interest or a negative interest in this issue since the issue itself has no direct impact on lowering the drug budget and the solution could actually increase the drug budget. However, CADDAC believes the Ontario government has a responsibility to these children to ensure their success at school and to prepare them to enter the workforce as productive taxpayers. Therefore, we believe ODB should have an interest and be concerned.
What does this mean to schools? Wasted resources, wasted time, poor educational performance, suspensions, expelling children, drop-outs etc.
What does this mean to caregivers and families? Missed days from work and school, relationship problems, low self esteem, substance abuse, legal difficulties etc.
What does it mean to children with ADHD? Failure
What can ODB do to help this situation? Cover first line, once daily medications as general listings available to all.
3. Potential for Missed Doses
In a three times a day scenario of dosing, children must depend on multiple care givers and themselves to get access to their medication. It is not unexpected that some of the morning and after school doses get missed. You can call this what you want, non-compliance or a medication error, it is completely preventable. ODB should cover first line, once daily medications as general listings and the potential for missed doses can be significantly reduced.
| Morning dose || Usually a parent. Usually not a problem. |
| Lunch dose || Could be anyone - teacher, secretary, principal, volunteer or paid assistant. Possibly a different person every day. In some cases a parent has to go to the school to dose their child. No storage requirements. No record keeping requirements. At the discretion of the school board and/or school administration. |
| After school dose || Various possibilities - day care worker, parent, sibling, child him/herself. Not an ideal situation. |
This statement is from a 13 year old boy who forgot to take his medication, when he realized what had happened. 'That's why I was so jumpy today. I had to keep getting up out of my seat and going over to x's desk. Mr. P kept glaring at me.' The missed dose stopped the boy from doing his work, stopped his friend from doing his work and took the teacher's attention away from teaching and onto the boy. What is the cost of this activity? (See below Cost of missing an afternoon of school).
4. Potential for Abuse
Immediate release dextroamphetimine and immediate release methylphenidate have high potential for abuse. First line agents such as Adderall XR, Concerta have very low potential for abuse. This is related either to the drug substance itself (e.g., Strattera) or the formulation (e.g., Concerta). Strattera for the purposes of abuse. Therefore, given the patient population to be treated, children and adolescents, CADDAC requests ODB cover first line agents not subject to abuse in the general listing of drug benefits. and Strattera cannot be used to induce a 'high' and it is virtually impossible to extract the methylphenidate in Concerta
5. Potential for Diversion
Second line, short-acting agents are regulated as controlled drugs by Health Canada. As you know, there are strict controls on both the prescriber and the pharmacist in terms of record keeping, storage and distribution of these medications. The ODB expects / allows non-licensed dealers (schools) to warehouse and distribute these medications. Is this not in contravention of the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations as well as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act? In addition, the ODB expects non-healthcare professionals to dose these medications. Is this not in contravention of several health disciplines acts? By putting, high street value drugs with abuse potential in the hands of non-licensed school and day care staff, you are inviting these drugs to be diverted for financial or other personal gain. This situation is unacceptable to CADDAC and once again preventable. ODB should ensure that first line, once daily ADHD medications are the preferred treatment for school aged children and adolescents. In this way, parents can control the administration of these medications.6. StigmatizationChildren with ADHD have a tough enough time at school as it is. The symptoms of their condition - inattention, distractibility, impulsivity and learning difficulties - invite ridicule on a daily basis. Sometimes even the teacher is the perpetrator of this ridicule. The ODB further stigmatizes these children by forcing them to access healthcare, i.e., drug treatment, in front of their peers. This leads to further embarrassment and loss of self esteem. Stigmatization leads to non-compliance with and even discontinuation of the drug treatment. ODB can do their part in supporting these children by covering first line, once daily ADHD medications as a general listing. LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES OF NON-COMPLIANCEIn the discussion above, CADDAC has shown that use of second line, short-acting medications for the treatment of ADHD set up a student for failure because of the pharmacokinetic profile of these drugs. Essentially, second line agents define non-compliance (peaks and valleys, therapeutic gap) or lead to non-compliance (missed doses, abuse, diversion, stigmatization and discontinuation). In this case, non-compliance is equivalent to no treatment.
With hypertension, sometimes referred to as the silent killer, the consequences of non-compliance are not observed for years, if not decades. The same goes for conditions like osteoporosis and hyperlipidemia where fractures, cardiac events and deaths are long term outcomes. CADDAC believes ADHD is in a similar category but for different reasons. The long term effects of untreated ADHD have also been identified by several researchers.
Wilens3 listed academic limitations, relationship problems, low self esteem, injuries, smoking / substance abuse, motor vehicle accidents, legal difficulties and occupational problems as long term consequences.
Barkley4 identified childhood academic impairments such as poor school performance (> 90% of ADHD students), low academic achievement (10-15% deficit), increased parent-child conflict and stress and peer relationship problems (50-70% of children with ADHD). He has also reported antisocial activities in teenagers such as theft, lies, truancy, breaking and entering, property destruction, cruelty to people / animals, fighting, setting fires and carrying weapons. In terms of educational outcomes, Barkley reported that more ADHD students are placed in special education, more are suspended, have a greater expulsion rate, higher drop out rate, lower class ranking, lower GPA and fewer attend post-secondary education and less graduate from post-secondary education.
Barkley also reported that ADHD teens start sexual activity earlier, have more sexual partners, spend less time with each partner, are less likely to use contraception (they would need to be organized), have a greater risk of teen pregnancy / STDs and have a greater chance of not having custody of their children than teens who do not have ADHD.
Adults with ADHD enter the workforce at an unskilled or semi-skilled level. They are more likely to be fired, change jobs more often and have lower work performance ratings.
Biederman studied the impact of pharmacotherapy for ADHD on the risk of substance abuse5. He concluded the following:
- Unmedicated ADHD youths in mid-adolescence were at highest risk for substance use disorder.
- Mediated AHDH youths in mid-adolescence were at lower risk for substance use disorder compared with unmedicated ADHD youths.
- Medicated status was found to be protective against substance use disorder in ADHD youths in mid-adolescence.
- Pharmacotherapy for ADHD reduces the risk of substance use disorder in ADHD youths.
In fact a meta-analysis6 of 1195 young people concluded that drug therapy for ADHD resulted in half the risk of developing substance abuse. COST OF FIRST LINE, ONCE DAILY ADHD DRUG TREATMENT VS COST OF ADHD
Cost of first line therapy
The CAP guidelines summarize drug costs. Please refer to Attachment 2.
Cost of missing an afternoon of school
If we assume the noon dose of a second line agent is missed, this is equivalent to missing an afternoon of school. At best the child will be distracted and inattentive. Next worst possibility is the child could spend the afternoon in the principal's office. At worst, the child would also lose the next day or two due to suspension. What is the value of an afternoon of school?
If we assume the Ministry of Education spends $17.5 billion per year on education (http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/) and there are 1.9 million students, then the cost of one year of education for one student is about $9,200. If we assume there are 180 teaching days in a year, the cost for one day is about $51.00 per student per day. Therefore, an afternoon of missed school costs about $25.50.
A 60 kg, grade 8 student, treated with first line, once daily medication would cost between $3.20 and $8.76 per day, significantly less than the cost of the missed afternoon at school. CADDAC believes this would be a good investment in education.
Another way to look at this would be to look at students who are taking second line therapy covered by ODB. In the best case scenario we would assume both the morning and noon doses are taken. However, the therapeutic gap results in at least 2 'missed' hours of school per day for the entire school year. The cost of treating that student with first line, once daily medication would be between $576 and $1,577 on school days. The cost of the missing 2 hours per day would be $2,825 per school year per child. In this model, treating school aged children with first-line, once daily medication would actually save the government money overall.
These are simple examples, but they illustrate the cost of first line drug therapy versus the cost of education and demonstrate the value of first line therapy to the Ministry of Education. This should be taken into account by ODB when considering whether first line treatment should be covered. CADDAC believes it should.
Cost analysis of various therapies
Marchetti et al7 looked at the costs for treatment and management of school-age children with ADHD taking either a second line agent or two of the first line agents. Other products were evaluated in this study but they are not available in Canada. Products in this study that are approved an marketed in Canada are discussed here. The total annual, per-patient expected cost of the various agents is reported in the following table. The cost of the treatment ODB pays for was higher than the cost of Concerta� because the authors assigned a cost to the dispensing and administration of noon doses to children at school. The study was sponsored by a manufacturer of a product not approved in Canada (Metadate CD) and Thomas Einarson (University of Toronto, Faculty of Pharmacy) was one of the authors. Another point made by these authors was that the actual cost of generic methylphenidate must be adjusted for non-compliance and consequent efficacy reduction of 25% making the true cost of generic immediate release methylphenidate even higher.
| Treatment || Total expected cost |
| Concerta || $1631 |
| Methylphenidate immediate release || $1845 |
| Ritalin || $2080 |
Income losses to ADHD sufferers
A different look at cost of treatment assessed the loss of income associated with ADHD. Harvard University researchers interviewed 500 adults with ADHD and 501 adults in the general population matched for age and gender.8 From this research, they estimated that yearly household income losses to ADHD sufferers were in the range of $77 billion in the US. Matched for education, those with ADHD earned about $10,791 less per year for high school graduates and $4,334 less per year for college graduates. This translates directly into reduced tax revenue.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS It is unethical for ODB to force children and adolescents to fail at school before getting access to the standard of care. ODB can rectify this situation by moving first line agents to general listing.
CALL FOR ACTION
CADDAC members request a meeting with you to discuss the actions you are going to take to address this situation. I will be contacting you to set up an appointment. Sincerely, Dianne Azzarello, BSc. Phm. cc:
Heidi Bernhardt, Norm Wolter
Ms. Helen Stephenson
Mr. Dalton McGuinty, Mr. George Smitherman, Ms. Kathleen Wynne
Att: 2 Attachment 1 CAP guidelines for drug therapy Attachment 2 Cost of ADHD medication treatment
1 Faraone & Biederman, Neurobiology of ADHD in Neurobiology of Mental Illness. Charney and Nestler, Oxford; 2004.
2 Vanity Fair, Interview with George Wayne, November 2006, page 273.
3 Weiss et al., 1992; 2004; Wilens et al. JAMA:2004, presentation to CADDRA conference 2006.
4 Barkley RA. Attention Deficit Disorder: A handbook for diagnosis and treatment. New York: Guilford, 1998.
5 Biederman J. Pharmacotherapy for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) decrease the risk of substance abuse: Finding from a longitudinal follow-up of youths with and without ADHD. J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64(suppl 11):3-8.
6 Wilens et al. Pediatrics 2003; 11:179-183; Faraone & Wilens, J Clin Psych:2004
7 Marchetti a, Magar R, Lau H, Murphy EL, Jensen PS, Conners CK et al. Pharmacotherapies for Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder : Expected-cost analysis. Clin Therapeut 2001;23(11):1904-1921.