Prenatal treatment of ADD on the horizon

With anticipated widespread acceptance of revised diagnostic criteria in DSM-5, the bible of psychiatric diagnoses, researchers are now keen to examine the efficacy of treatment for prenatal attention deficit disorder (ADD-PN).

“We’ve already got the drugs. This will allow us to study the incidence and treatment of ADD in the womb (ADD-PN) using only the highest ethical standards in medical research,” said Dr. Erma Kidd, a psychopharmacologist on staff at Slamdunk Medical College and Hospital, one of the few remaining medical institutions in the country not underwritten by the pharmaceutical industry.

Researchers have known for decades that ADD (or ADHD, as it is sometimes called) carries a genetic predisposition. “We’ve been able to track this malady through generations of families. The trouble was that we had no good clinical criteria for prenatal diagnosis of the disease,” Dr. Kidd explained in a recent e-mail. “Publication of DSM-5 changes all of that. Now we can diagnose ADD-PN in the womb. And if we can diagnose it, treatment options are just around the corner.”

This late-breaking news comes on the heels of recent announcements that child psychiatrists, general practitioners, pediatricians and maintenance personnel working in their offices have been given the green light to treat preschoolers with powerful stimulant medications in an effort to improve quality of life—for them and for their parents.

Off the record, preliminary studies examining the efficacy of prenatal pharmacologic treatment for ADD-PN have been underway since last year. “It’s been exciting, but extremely tough on our research team,” Dr. Kidd wrote. “After devising modalities to administer methylphenidate-like drugs to a cohort of fetuses, we were forced to wait until the babies were born before we could adequately study their behavior and development.”

Nevertheless, preliminary data is promising. “Mothers who had methylphenidate infused into their amniotic fluid reported considerably less fetal movement during the third trimester of gestation,” Dr. Kidd said. “Indirectly, we infer that the drug was helping these fetuses to calm down, to become less impulsive and more focused in the womb.”

Subsequently, some of the subjects have been born; and the data so far is impressive. Developmentalists report that when compared with their peers, many infants in the research cohort seem to be able to rest comfortably in feeding chairs in front of daytime television game shows for longer periods of time. They also exhibit less interrupted sleep, and coo and babble only when prompted.

“Imagine, babies genetically destined to suffer from ADD throughout their lifetimes, who now at only 2 months of age show less impulsivity when vocalizing with their parents. They wait to be recognized before speaking; and even then, their remarks seem to be much more age appropriate.”

The future looks bright for these children. “No more food fights at the dinner table, no more negative behavior at bedtime,” Dr. Kidd added. “We’re working hard to make it a better world for parents, for all of us.”

Still, some clinicians exercise a word of caution. “When it comes to the grey matter of the human brain, nothing is black and white,” one researcher commented. “In these clinical trials, nothing is a slam-dunk.”

Apart from stock options which she has yet to exercise, Dr. Kidd has disclosed no contractual relationships with any of the major pharmaceutical companies who market methylphenidate in their product lines.

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4 comments on “Prenatal treatment of ADD on the horizon

  1. DJE says:

    Thanks for bringing this important breaking news to my attention. How great to preempt ADHD in this simple way. We should see how our C2S audience reacts to this promising therapy. Dr. Swift would be interested in this study as well.

  2. Sara says:

    I disagree with this research. How do they really know what the long term effects of doing this medication at such an early age will be? Also how can they really be sure the child was going to have ADD, a predisposition is not a guarantee? I think doctors in general (no offense to anyone who might read this) are too quick to prescribe medication for conditions that should be dealt with in a more natural, holistic way on children so young. I don’t think a child’s first experience with life should be medication for a non life threatening condition.

    • Brian says:

      I wrote this satirical piece in response to a recent article in the New York Times which referenced an updated policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics that gives a green light to pediatricians to begin prescribing Ritalin-like drugs to preschoolers. (You can find the link to this article in the text of my post.)

      Clinicians are now routinely prescribing psychoactive drugs to younger and younger children to control their behavior at school and in the home. After reading the Times piece, I considered how I might best tackle this issue in a post. Usually I address a point of conjecture straight on. In this case I elected to use satire to drive a point home.

  3. td says:

    We already live in a drugged society, your satirical proposal is merely the next logical step.

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