Bob Kucera

Bob Kucera

Former Minister for Disability Services; Sport and Recreation; Citizenship and Multicultural Interests; Seniors

    New policy targets diagnosis and treatment of ADHD

    19/12/2002 3:03 PM

    The State Government has released a new policy today targeting the diagnosis and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in response to community concern at the escalating use of stimulant medication by Western Australian children.

    Health Minister Bob Kucera said the policy would have a significant impact on current medical practice and would come into effect before the start of the 2003 school year.

    WA children are among the highest users of psycho-stimulant medication in the world, with prescription rates here four times the national average.

    “This has raised serious concerns about the capacity of the current system to respond effectively to the escalating number of children requiring assessment and treatment,” Mr Kucera said.

    “It is vital that the prescribing of stimulant medication to children is both effectively monitored and done within safe guidelines.

    “While there is evidence that stimulants can be an effective treatment for the symptoms of ADHD, psycho-stimulant drugs are potentially dangerous if misused or abused.”

    The Minister said the new policy, which was developed by a range of medical experts, would:
    • remove en bloc authorisation, which currently allows specialists to prescribe stimulants without individual patient authorisation;
    • review and strengthen the Stimulant Treatment Guidelines to ensure doctors follow specific criteria when making a diagnosis;
    • introduce a patient notification system, which will reinforce the need for specialist prescribers to comply with the revised diagnostic and treatment guidelines;
    • establish an assessment panel convened by the Department of Health to replace the Stimulants Committee. The panel will monitor the notification system and consider exceptional applications; and
    • ensure that an audit is carried out in the next 18 months to two years to assess the clinical outcomes of those children who are prescribed stimulants for ADHD.
    The policy also recommends that children are exposed to a broader range of treatments - including behaviour management, family counselling and support, educational management and treatment of specific issues such as speech development.

    “Associated problems such as learning difficulties, peer relationships, low self-esteem and family dysfunction should be addressed,” Mr Kucera said.

    “This system will also reinforce the need for specialist prescribers to comply with the diagnostic and treatment guidelines, and will allow monitoring of diagnostic and prescribing patterns.”

    The new policy was launched today in Armadale, which has the highest prescribing rates for ADHD in Australia.

    Roleystone MLA Martin Whitely - a former teacher and vocal advocate for a more holistic approach to the treatment of behavioural disorders in children - said the policy would place greater emphasis on accurate diagnosis and appropriate use of medication.

    “This policy will ensure more effective monitoring of the use of psycho-stimulant medication,” Mr Whitely said.

    “But more importantly, it will help to ensure that only those children who need medication are prescribed it.”

    Mr Kucera said the policy was one part of the solution but other steps had to be taken.

    He has written to the Federal Health Minister calling on the Commonwealth to expedite the availability of long-acting ADHD medication on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

    “This would go a long way to removing ADHD medication from the school environment, where we know it can be abused and sold on,” he said.

    Minister's office: 9213 7000