- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

Ritalin given a bad rap?

My colleagues and I read the May 6 articles "Parents, schools need to control Ritalin access" and "Youths high on Ritalin: Easily available medication can be entry to drug abuse" with great interest. These articles deal with an important issue drug abuse associated with prescription medications among school-age children.
As the pioneering manufacturer of Ritalin since 1955, we are keenly aware of the medical value and legitimacy of this product and the disorders it treats. But we are also very aware of the misperceptions that tend to develop and persist regarding drug treatment of children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is important that situations of abuse be handled as effectively as possible, and that this issue not be allowed to limit access to therapy for bona fide patients and their families.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has done an admirable job in this regard, but as with all parties involved in oversight of licit and illicit drug use, there are limitations to what each party and the system can do to completely prevent abuse from occurring. By reporting on evidence of misuse and abuse, The Washington Times provides an important public service that alerts parents, teachers, school nurses and physicians to be more alert to possible misuse. We fear, however, that certain points in the articles could potentially feed misperceptions about Ritalin and ADHD and would like to take this opportunity to address those elements.
The articles suggest that overprescription may contribute to illicit use of Ritalin. But a 1998 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that there is little evidence of overdiagnosis of ADHD and/or overprescription of stimulants among those with ADHD. Moreover, as recently as January of this year, the U.S. Surgeon Generals Conference on Childrens Mental Health issued a National Action Agenda estimating that fewer than one in five children receives needed treatment for mental illness, including ADHD.
In addition, contrary to the suggestion in your articles that Ritalin may be an "entry to drug abuse," studies have shown that although people with ADHD, if untreated, are at increased risk for substance abuse, proper treatment of the disorder in fact reduces this risk in later life. One such study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University, was published in the August 1999 issue of Pediatrics.
Finally, most of the material cited in the articles as resources for readers to obtain more information is representative of one narrow viewpoint that disputes the existence of the disease and flies in the face of 50 years of responsible science.
In fact, ADHD is a valid medical condition recognized by organizations that include the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Ritalin has been used safely and effectively in the treatment of millions of ADHD patients for more than 40 years and is the most studied drug prescribed for the disorder, with more than 200 studies completed in more than 6,000 schoolchildren. We are proud of the medical progress made possible due to Ritalin, and the tremendously positive impact it has had on peoples lives. Keeping it out of the hands of abusers is a shared priority to which we are closely committed.

Senior Vice President and General Manager
Commercial Operations
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.
East Hanover, N.J.

Sanctions on Zimbabwe would stifle democratic development

Ewen M. Wilsons April 30 letter to the editor, "Congress should take strong stance against Zimbabwe despots," is the kind of lecture from self-appointed apostles of democracy that Africans have come to expect.

The stereotyping is standard: African governments are "regimes" and their rulers are despots, tyrants or worse. Such terms were never used to describe any of the oppressive white governments that ruled Zimbabwe for 90 years and South Africa for more than 200 years. Zimbabwe´s present-day leaders campaigned, went to prison and fought a war for 30 years to achieve democracy. They were able to introduce it in 1980 and practiced it without criticism for 20 years.

They certainly do not need a lecture on democracy from outsiders.

Zimbabweans condemn the political violence that preceded the 2000 elections and that was provoked and perpetrated by supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party and the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and they pray that it will not happen again.

Mr. Wilson accuses President Robert Mugabe of being involved in criminal acts such as the bombing of the Daily News printing press and the murder of a 72-year-old white woman that were committed by unknown individuals. Nor does he cite any evidence of Mr. Mugabe´s involvement, clearly in order to further demonize the president. Why would the president order an act that would provoke condemnation by the likes of Mr. Wilson?

Blaming Mr. Mugabe for the bombing of the Daily News printing press or for the murder of the old woman is as ridiculous as blaming President Clinton for the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building or President John F. Kennedy for the Birmingham church bombing in 1963. These are simply criminal acts that must be investigated and whose perpetrators must be punished.

Even if all the sins attributed to Mr. Mugabe were true, which they are not, they are no justification for the U.S. Congress to impose economic sanctions on a friendly state. Far worse political violence has occurred in other states around the world. More than 400 civilians, including children, have been gunned down by soldiers in Israel/Palestine; British soldiers shot 14 unarmed Roman Catholics on Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland; hundreds of prisoners have been killed by guards in Turkey; thousands of people have died in Indonesia; more than 2 million have been killed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which is controlled by Uganda and Rwanda; and political violence plagues other African states, as well.

Will Congress impose sanctions on these states as well? If not, then why pick on Zimbabwe? This selective morality exposes the true reason for introducing the bill co-sponsored by Sens. Bill First, Tennessee Republican, and Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat and it is clearly not to promote democracy or human rights. Rather, the bill was introduced because Mr. Mugabe has taken land from white farmers for the benefit of 150,000 black families, and that is why the bill must be opposed by all supporters of racial justice.

Many great minds including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, President Jimmy Carter, Lady Margaret Thatcher and Lord Carrington have recognized that equitable redistribution of land was vital for peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe.

For black Zimbabweans, land was the "casus belli" and remains central to all politics. It cannot be described as a diversion. The present social political disturbances stem from a failure to resolve the racial inequalities of land ownership in the past 20 years hence the government´s determination to do so now.

All Africans, including some white farmers, support the land reform that is under way. Rather than proceed with a divisive bill, Congress should lend a helping hand.

Zimbabwe is already a democratic state with a strong parliament, an independent judiciary, a vigorous opposition press and one of the best economic infrastructures in Africa. Democratic practice can and will be improved, but only by Zimbabweans themselves, not by an outside interference. Democracy cannot be decreed by any external power.

Sanctions may hurt the economy and create more unemployment. They will not produce democracy or the rule of law but will create conditions conducive to the destruction of the democracy that exists today. Even Britain´s Foreign Minister Robin Cook, the most prominent critic of Zimbabwe´s government, has categorically stated: "I reject economic sanctions. It would be a grave mistake for the government to apply such a sanction, which would deal a very grave blow to innocent people in Zimbabwe. They have suffered enough already."

Economic sanctions are opposed by Zimbabweans of all political persuasion, including MDC members of Parliament. They are opposed by all 14 South African Development Community states, all 53 African states in the Organization of African Unity, by the Non Aligned Movement and by the vast majority of blacks in this country. The bill is an insult to black people everywhere and must be exposed.

True friends of Zimbabwe will oppose sanctions and support the economic reconstruction that is already under way while urging Zimbabwe political parties to settle their differences by peaceful negotiation. Once racial privilege in land ownership is removed, Zimbabwe will quickly return to the peace, stability and prosperity of its first 20 years as an independent nation.



Republic of Zimbabwe


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