Funding approved for new ADHD drug

Government funding has been approved for a new once a day, non-stimulant treatment for behavioural problems in children.

The new drug was not a stimulant and would not be open to the kind of abuse that had been a problem with other drugs used for treating people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), government drug funding agency Pharmac said today.

The drug, atomoxetine (Strattera), would be funded from April 1 for people with ADHD.

Available under special authority, the drug would be available to people who had not responded to, or who were unable to take, stimulant-type ADHD treatments such as methylphenidate and dexamphetamine.

"Atomoxetine is a long-acting treatment for ADHD that has a different therapeutic action than other funded treatments," said pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moodie.

This provided benefits for patients who were not responding to other ADHD treatments.

"To date the ADHD treatments we have funded have all been stimulant-type drugs," Dr Moodie said.

"This means they are classed as controlled drugs, so have to be carefully managed. Unfortunately, it also means those drugs are open to abuse and there have been reports in the past of there being a `black market' trade in ADHD treatments."

Dr Moodie said atomoxetine was a different type of drug, so the risk of it being abused, or given to a person it was not prescribed for was greatly reduced. The fact it was not a controlled drug had benefits for doctors and pharmacists too.

For patients, the drug had the added benefit of only having to be taken once a day.

About 11,000 people are prescribed ADHD treatments.

Dr Moodie said it was difficult to estimate how many of these might be prescribed atomoxetine, however, Pharmac's modelling estimated subsidies for around 900 people after three years.

- NZPA