Health & Science

Think marketing affects the prescription of ADHD stimulants? Here’s how to find out.

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Is your pediatrician the target of intense marketing and advertising? If so, it could affect the level of care your child receives, especially if your child has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Luckily, there are ways to find out.

More than 6 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD, and 62 percent of those take medication, usually stimulants, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When used properly, ADHD medication can be life-changing for children, helping them perform better in school and vastly improving their family and social relationships, too. 

But a recent analysis of how stimulants are marketed by pharmaceutical companies has found that pediatricians are the targets of an immense amount of marketing. While doctors are trained to be impartial, studies have shown that something as simple as a free meal can influence the likelihood that a doctor will recommend a particular drug. 

Mark Bertin, M.D., a pediatrician in Pleasantville, New York, recently admitted to the New York Times that he tries to avoid all the marketing surrounding ADHD medications, precisely because they can be very persuasive. Doctors, he says, should be making ADHD diagnoses with great care. Allowing pharmaceutical reps to constantly visit your office— and at times, accepting gifts and free meals from them — can muddy the waters. But that doesn’t mean every doctor prescribing stimulants is only doing so because of those relationships. “The idea that we’re only using them because of the pharmaceutical industry is totally off base,” he said.

The good news is there are ways for parents to check if their healthcare provider has accepted compensation from a pharmaceutical company or a medical manufacturer. Both a government database and ProPublica have portals that allow you to search by name. 

Whether or not your pediatrician is on the list, experts encourage concerned parents to talk with their doctor about any concerns regarding pharmaceutical influences. No good pediatrician would ever object to being reminded that what’s most important is what’s in the best interest of the child. If medication is a necessary part of the solution, that’s fine. But having the talk might give you extra peace of mind — and every parent deserves that.

The former Content Director at Parenting, and several other brands, Ana Connery is a writer and content strategist whose work appears in USA Today, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, Cafe Mom/The Stir, Momtastic, and others.