ADHD meds add kid-friendly message

U. LEEDS (UK) — To help children with attention deficit disorder better understand their condition, ADHD medicines in the UK will now include a “youth-friendly” section on patient information leaflets.

The new section—that will include information about the medicines and how to take them safely—will also help young people feel included in discussions about their treatment.

More than half a million prescriptions for methylphenidate—a stimulant medicine to treat ADHD, sold under the brand names Ritalin, Concerta, and Equasym—are dispensed each year in England. Up until now, however, the patient information leaflet included with every box has been written with only adults in mind.


Following an agreement with drug companies, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) decided that a youth-friendly section should be included in all brands of methylphenidate prescribed and dispensed in the UK.

The work was undertaken by researchers at the  University of Leeds in collaboration with the Leeds-based company Luto Research.

As reported in Pharmaceuticals Journal, the revised patient information leaflet now includes a section called “Information for children and young people” that provides clear and simple information about the consequences of possible side effects, using examples that may be relevant to children and teens.

For example, when advising users to avoid certain activities if they feel dizzy, it refers to horse riding, climbing trees, and riding a bike. The section also offers advice to youngsters who may be sexually active.

“Children and young people are the main consumers of these medicines,” says Theo Raymor, professor of of pharmacy at the University of Leeds.

“It is important that they have the opportunity to know why they have been given this drug treatment and how it can help them. The revised leaflet now gives them a chance to read about their medication in an easy and informative way.”

Words and phrases in the youth friendly section were tested by adults and teenagers, as well as children as young as 10 who read the leaflet with a parent. Feedback from this testing helped ensure that the messages on safety and side effects were clear to a wide range of ages.

“We gave particular thought to the layout of the text, as well as the content,” Raynor says. “Simple changes, such as making headings bolder, using bulleted lists, and dividing long sentences into shorter ones can make a real difference when writing for all people, including children.

“This is the first time that children and teens have had a chance to comment on the information that goes into medicine packs, and it has proven to be very successful.

“We are now hoping that this approach can be taken for other medicines that are used widely by children, perhaps medicines for asthma or epilepsy.”

The work was co-ordinated by the MHRA as part of its drive to help people of all ages understand the medicines they are taking.

“It’s vital that both children and adults understand the medication they are taking,” says MHRA Head of Patient Information Quality, Jan MacDonald.

“Children and young adults with ADHD will be better informed about their healthcare from the new style of patient information.”

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