Huge Increase in ADHD Prescriptions Filled by Reproductive-Age Women

On January 18, 2018, the CDC published a report that found the number of privately insured U.S. women ages 15 to 44 years who filled a prescription for a medicine to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increased 344 percent between 2003 and 2015. Even higher increases in the rate of prescriptions for ADHD medicine were reported for women in their late 20s and early 30s. For those aged 25 to 29 years, the number of women who filled a prescription for an ADHD medicine increased by 700 percent. The second largest increase was among women ages 30 to 34: a 560 percent increase.


Little information is available about the safety of taking ADHD medicine during pregnancy. More research is needed so women with ADHD and their health care providers can weigh the risks and benefits of ADHD treatment options during pregnancy.


“Half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and women may be taking prescription medicine early in pregnancy before they know they are pregnant,” said Coleen Boyle, Ph.D., M.S.Hyg., director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Early pregnancy is a critical time for the developing baby. We need to better understand the safest ways to treat ADHD before and during pregnancy.”


ADHD medicine prescriptions increased for all included age groups and in all U.S. geographic regions. In 2015, the most commonly filled ADHD medicines among this group of women were mixed amphetamine salts (Adderall), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse), and methylphenidate (Ritalin). A rise in stimulant ADHD medication prescriptions accounted for this increase; prescriptions for the nonstimulant atomoxetine have remained stable since 2003. The substantial increase in the percentage of reproductive-aged women filling ADHD medication prescriptions from 2003 to 2015, across age groups and U.S. geographic regions, is of public health concern given the high percentage of unintended pregnancies and uncertainty concerning the safety of ADHD medication exposure before and during pregnancy.


“If a woman is pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, she should talk to her healthcare provider about all medicines she is taking. Pregnant women should also talk to their doctor before stopping or starting any medicine,” Dr. Boyle said.


See the CDC Announcement


See the CDC Report


See also Medical Risk Law Report: Drugs, Dosage, and Damage: Physician Liability for Prescribing or Administering Medication


See also Medical Risk Law Report: Mothers, Infants, and Obstetrical Injuries: Labor and Delivery Liability Risks


See the Medical Risk Law Blog: Is Stillbirth Medical Malpractice Success Directly Proportional to Weeks of Pregnancy?


See the Medical Risk Law Blog: Florida’s No-Fault Compensation System for Severe Birth Injury Claims Fails Again