One of the debates over the whether ADHD is over-diagnosed is the relationship between the increasing diagnosis and the profit the pharmaceutical companies are making from the medications being prescribed to treat the disorder.
Several years ago, a law firm, Waters and Kraus filed three class action lawsuits, on behalf of the Church of Scientology, claiming Novartis Pharmaceutical Company and Ciba-Gigy Corporation (the predecessor of Novartis), “planned, conspired and colluded to create, develop and promote the diagnosis of Deficit Disorder to increase the market for its product Ritalin.” Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is a commonly prescribed stimulant medication for ADHD.
In addition to naming the pharmaceutical companies, the lawsuit contended that CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) conspired with the drug company and the American Psychiatric Association broadened symptoms of ADHD to create a larger market for Ritalin.
Dr. Peter Breggin, a neurologist, was a lead witness in one of the cases. He indicated that ADHD medications were a “gateway to illicit drugs” and that ADHD was a fraud. When a case in California was dismissed, Dr. Breggin insinuated the court was owned by pro-drugging, pro-psychiatry forces.
Dr. Fred Baughman was also a witness in the cases. Dr. Baughman has been cited by the Church of Scientology as an “expert witness.” However, the Church of Scientology has been quoted as saying the purpose of the lawsuits was “not to win” but to “harass.”
The lawsuits were all dismissed with prejudice. The suit filed in California was thrown out in part because it was an attempt to use the court for a political agenda.
Other lawsuits were instituted in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, New Jersey and Georgia (the Church of Scientology was not involved in these suits) alleging that the medical profession promoted ADHD medications.
All of the lawsuits have failed in their attempts to undermine the medical diagnosis of ADHD. No evidence supporting the theory that pharmaceutical companies encourage the diagnosis of ADHD to increase profits or that ADHD is a non-existent disorder have been proven. In the years since the lawsuits, a great deal of research has shown ADHD to be a valid disorder that can cause impairment, not only in children but also throughout adulthood.
See All of This Series:
ADHD Understanding the Problem, Updated 2008, March 24, TelosNet
“About Us - Feingold Association”, 2008, Feingold Association of the United States
 “Almost Half of Kids With ADHD Are Not Being Treated, Study Finds”, 2006, Aug 6, Washington University School of Medicine
 “Is ADHD Being Overdiagnosed”, 1998, Nov 16, Meg Kissinger, Journal Sentinel
“ADHD Controversy”, Date Unknown, Guy, FDU
“Dramatic Rise in ADHD Sparks Controversy” 2000, Dec 15, Diane Weaver Dunne, Education World
“ADHD”, Reviewed 2005, Jan 30, Ronald Pies, WebMD
“Myths and Misunderstandings”, 2007, Author Unknown, Help for ADHD, National Resource Center for ADHD
 Report 10 of the Council on Science and Public Health: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, 2008, June 2, CSAPH, American Medical Association
 “What Causes ADHD?”, Last reviewed 2008, June 26, National Institute of Mental Health
 "International Consensus Statement on ADHD, 2002, Jan, Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review
“Adult ADHD Underdiagnosed”, 2008, May 6, Charlene Laino, MedicineNet.com
 “ADHD Underdiagnosed in Girls”, 2000, April 1, Ellen B. Littman, Family Practice News
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.