Eli Lilly: 'Small grant'
Support and advice groups for parents of children with so-called behavioural
disorders are being secretly funded by pharmaceutical firms, it can be revealed.
The groups give out advice on stimulant drugs and other controversial
medical treatments for young children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD). Their internet sites provide extensive details of medications
that doctors can prescribe.
But at the same time they are also being secretly financed by the pharmaceutical
companies which make the controversial "chemical cosh" drugs.
Last night one of the groups, a government-funded charity, admitted receiving
five-figure sums from the drug giants and one of the companies involved conceded
that a desire to sell more of its product was one of its motives for providing
The revelation comes amid increasing concern over the huge increase in children
being fed powerful drugs in order to control overly exuberant behaviour.
Prescriptions of methyl-phenidate, a stimulant sold under several brand
names, have increased 180-fold in the past 14 years.
Nicknamed "the chemical cosh" for its ability to slow down children,
methyl-phenidate is predominantly prescribed to under-16s and its side-effects
include insomnia, unresponsiveness and loss of appetite.
Critics claim that its use is unnecessary in many instances, as the children
are exhibiting natural traits for their age which can be alleviated with dietary
The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service (ADDISS)
is a Department of Health-funded charity set up to "provide people-friendly
information and resources about ADHD" and its website provides a factsheet
giving details of the drugs that can be supplied to children.
It has received funding from three of the major pharmaceutical companies that
make methylphenidate and other ADHD medications, which have been accused of
sparking suicidal behaviour and liver problems in children.
However, the drug firms' financing is not acknowledged on the site and nor
do their names show up on the accounts lodged with the Charity Commission.
Andrea Bilbow, the founder and chief executive of ADDISS, admitted that her
group had solicited and received total funding of around £20,000 from
Janssen-Cilag, which makes Concerta, a form of methylphenidate, UCB Pharma,
which also produces another branded form of the drug, and Eli Lilly, which makes
a form of atomoxetine, another ADHD drug which is linked to an increased suicide
risk in children.
She said: "From time to time we do go to the pharmaceutical companies
to ask for money, but we are not getting massive amounts. We don't sell our
soul to the devil but we can't survive without them."
Ms Bilbow said that she did not identify the companies which have funded her
charity on its internet site because to do so would be giving them "something
"If we put the names on the site that would be promoting the companies
and I've told them I won't do that," she said. "That would be advertising
and I'm not getting enough money from them for that."
Another website, Adders.org, run by the Thanet ADDers non-profit support group,
also gives detailed instructions on which drugs are available. Thanet ADDers
has received money from at least one drug company. A spokesman for Eli Lilly
confirmed that it had provided support in the form of a "small grant".
Caroline Hensby, who runs the website, did not respond to calls.
The Eli Lilly spokesman said that the company wanted to help educate people
about ADHD, but she conceded that there was a degree of self-interest in it
A spokesman for Janssen-Cilag confirmed that financial support had been given
to ADDISS for a "specific meeting" organised by the charity.
A spokesman for UCB Pharma said: "Whilst we have good working relationships
with ADDIS and Adders, we have not provided any significant funding or sponsorship."
Not all ADHD help groups take money from the pharmaceutical companies.
Glenn Slater, who has a child with ADHD and runs the website ADDvice.co.uk,
which does not receive such funding, said: "Pharmaceutical companies giving
money is not a good idea as people on the outside might get the wrong idea about
the sites' motives."
Jim Mackie, former chairman of the Overload Network, which provides support
for families affected by ADHD, said: "If they [the charities] are being
funded by drug companies who are interested in promoting their products then
that should be made clear on the websites."