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Green Light for OTC Ritalin, But Some See Red

Criticism of decision by Ethics Committee of Medical Federation to allow purchase of Ritalin without a prescription.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 2/8/2011, 2:33 PM

Flash 90

 

The Ethics Committee of the Medical Histadrut (Federation) determined Monday that it is permitted to sell Ritalin (Methylphenidate) without a doctor's prescription. Ritalin is a psycho-stimulant drug approved for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is in widespread use in Israeli schools, where it is most often administered to boys. 
 
Prof. Esther Shohami, a researcher and lecturer in the pharmacological department in the Hebrew University's Faculty of Medicine, criticized the decision Tuesday. She told Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language service that the decision is a dangerous one.
 
The chemical compound in Ritalin is similar to that in certain types of stimulants that people take in order to improve physical and cognitive functionality, and that like those stimulants, it can cause the development of dependence and addiction."
 
"A person who does not need Ritalin and only takes the medication to improve performance could cause certain things that were hidden inside him to erupt," she explained. People who do require Ritalin are less likely to suffer these negative effects, she added.
 
 
"There are people who arrive at the emergency rooms with psychotic seizures," Prof. Shohami said, and told of a conversation she had earlier in the day with a psychiatrist at Hadassah Har Hatzofim in Jerusalem. He told her of "quite a few cases of young people who arrive at the hospital with signs of a psychotic seizure and an inquiry we conduct afterward reveals that they were taking Ritalin."
 
While the medication is very good for children who require it, creating calm and aiding concentration, in those who do not need it it can cause the opposite effect: hyper-stimulation.
 
The Ethics Committee's decision is not as clear-cut as the press reported, she added, and there are still limitations on selling the medication. Prof. Shohami noted that the easing of the purchase of Ritalin, despite its negative effects, makes her wonder why the medical system in Israel is so opposed to the prescription of medicines based on hashish.