Bitter Pill


Bitter Pill

Ritalin and the Growing Influence of Big Pharma

By Lawrence Diller

January/February 2005


Nadine Lambert doesn't look the part of a radical firebrand, bent on undermining the pharmaceutical industry and sticking it to the power elite of the American child-psychiatry establishment. A pleasant, thoughtful, gray-haired academic, she's been a research psychologist in the department of education at the University of California at Berkeley since 1973, and now heads the department's School Psychology program. Lambert never planned on becoming the enfant terrible of the world of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) treatment. Her work in the field began quietly and methodically in the 1970s, when she became involved in a larger effort to develop special-education services for school-aged children. The original purpose of what became her life's work was a straightforward prevalence study to determine the relative number of handicapped and/or hyperactive children in San Francisco's East Bay area. From the mid-1970s to 1990, she regularly published scientific articles describing an ambitious research project that anticipated following these children to adulthood.

Then, in 1998, this dignified, middle-aged professor of educational psychology suddenly became the center of an academic firestorm. At the prestigious National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on AD/HD, she announced the results of a study suggesting that use of Ritalin, one of the most routinely prescribed drugs for children in

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