Hyperkinetic disorders among children and adolescents are becoming increasingly common. In the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, Ingrid Schubert of the PMV Research Group at the University of Cologne and her colleagues address the question how this has affected the frequency of prescriptions for methylphenidate, a stimulant drug that is used to treat such disorders (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2010; 107: 615¬21). The authors analyzed data concerning tens of thousands of persons insured by the AOK health insurance company in the German state of Hesse over the period 2000 to 2007.
In 2007, the overall prevalence of hyperkinetic disorders among persons aged 0 to 18 years was 2.2%. This figure was nearly 50% higher than the corresponding figure for 2000. The authors found the greatest rise in prevalence in the 15- to18-year-old age group. This secular trend was particularly noteworthy for girls: among persons aged 6 to 18 years, the prevalence of hyperkinetic disorders rose by 70% among girls, as compared to 53% among boys.
In 2007, 1.1% of 6- to 18-year-olds received at least one prescription for methylphenidate. This figure corresponded to a 252% increase in daily doses prescribed in comparison to the 2000 level. The authors found that the increase was due to rises not only in the number of persons for whom methylphenidate was prescribed, but also in the average amount of the drug prescribed per patient.