- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

Actor Tom Cruise doesn’t know psychiatry. Neither do many of the members of a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that went beyond both data and science to engage in a bit of fearmongering and abuse of power to seek to reduce the number of children receiving medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The FDA advisory committee was supposed to discuss whether stimulants used for ADHD were associated with an increased risk of heart problems in children taking such drugs. By an 8-7 vote that left FDA officials stunned, the committee suggested warning parents of the heart risks of the drugs.

Committee members did so not because of any evidence, but because of a personal agenda that would delight Scientologists. A clear reading of the data submitted by the FDA or even available to the public suggests such a link does not exist. There were 25 reports of unexplained death between 1999 and 2005, and 54 incidents of serious cardiovascular problems. Some of these patients had pre-existing heart conditions or hypertension, whose incidence is growing among children. The rate of unexplained death among children taking ADHD medications is no higher than children in the population as a whole.

This didn’t prevent advisory panel members Dr. Curt Furberg or Dr. Steven Nissen from using the fear factor to push their own agenda against ADHD medicines. Both took turns at being Tom Cruise. Dr. Furberg claimed, “[T]his condition is not really recognized in other countries … you wonder what we are treating. I am sure there are patients who need these drugs, but it is not 10 percent of all 10-year-old boys.” In fact, there is an international consensus treatment guideline and the percentage of boys with the condition is far less than 10 percent. Dr. Nissen stated, “I want to get people’s hands to tremble a little bit before they write that [prescription].” Why? Adolescents properly treated do better in school, are less likely to be depressed or commit suicide, die in car accidents or turn to drugs.

Drs. Nissen, Furberg and others knowingly manipulated their semi-celebrity status among lazy media types as public-health gadflies to push a personal agenda. They are no better or better informed than Tom Cruise. But the damage they may have done might be substantially greater.


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