Press Release, 2002
American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines for Treating Behavioral Disorders
in Children with Ritalin Ignores Evidence of Cancer Risks warns Samuel S.
Epstein, M.D

Based on an industry-funded multi-university trial on 282 pre-teen children
treated with Ritalin for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD),
just published in Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatrics has
endorsed the use of the drug. However, the Academy ignores clear evidence
of the drug's cancer risks of which parents, teachers and school nurses,
besides most pediatricians and psychiatrists, still remain uninformed and

Some 40 years after the drug was first marketed by Ciba Geigy,
carcinogenicity tests were conducted at the tax payer's expense by the
National Toxicology Program, the results of which were published in 1995.
Adult mice were fed Ritalin over a two-year period at dosages close to
those prescribed to children. The mice developed a statistically
significant incidence of liver abnormalities and tumors, including highly
aggressive rare cancers known as hepatoblastomas. These findings are
particularly disturbing as the tests were conducted on adult, rather than
young mice which would be expected to be much more sensitive to
carcinogenic effects. The National Toxicology Program concluded that
Ritalin is a "possible human carcinogen," and recommended the need for
further research. While still insisting that the drug is safe, the Food and
Drug Administration admitted that these findings signal "carcinogenic
potential," and required a statement to this effect in the drug's package
insert. However, these inserts are not seen by parents or nurses.

The Physicians' Desk Reference admits evidence on the carcinogenicity of
Ritalin, now manufactured by Novartis, qualified by the statement that "the
significance of these results is unknown," apparently not recognizing that
this is more alarming than reassuring. Apart from cancer risks, there is
also suggestive evidence that Ritalin induces genetic damage in blood cells
of Ritalin-treated children.
Concerns on Ritalin's cancer risk are more acute in view of the millions of
children treated annually with the drug and the escalating incidence of
childhood cancer, by some 35% over the last few decades, quite apart from
delayed risks of cancer in adult life. These risks are compounded by the
availability of alternative safe and effective procedures, notably behavior
modification and biofeedback.

There is no justification for prescribing Ritalin, even by highly qualified
pediatricians and psychiatrists, unless parents have been explicitly
informed of the drug's cancer risks. Otherwise, prescribing Ritalin
constitutes unarguable medical malpractice.

CONTACT:Local Office Director:

Shelley Kramer at

Cancer Prevention Coalition National Office:
2121 West Taylor Street, MC 922, Chicago, IL 60612, e-mail