American Adults Surpass Children in Taking Drugs to Stay Focused

How Drug Companies Benefit From Adult ADHD

ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, isn’t just for kids anymore.

Adults in the U.S. have overtaken children in taking medication for the condition and accounted for 53 percent of the industrywide 63 million prescriptions for ADHD drugs last year, according to data compiled by Shire Plc, which makes the top-selling Vyvanse treatment. That compared with 39 percent in 2007, the Dublin-based drugmaker said.

The market shift, which refutes the common perception that ADHD is a pediatric condition, has occurred partly because the disorder persists into adulthood, according to studies. More parents of children with ADHD -- which leads to restlessness, lack of focus and impulsive behavior -- are also getting diagnosed amid a growing awareness that it can be inherited.

“We’ve shifted more effort into the adult ADHD market, which is now more than half of the overall market and has the highest growth,” Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov said in a recent conference call with analysts. “It’s growing fast, almost twice as fast as the overall market.”

Shire’s Vyvanse, which is approved to treat both children ages 6 to 17 and adults, commanded half the branded market for ADHD drugs globally last year. The company’s efforts to tap the growing market are focused on having sales representatives educate doctors about results from clinical trials involving adults.

Sales of the drug rose 18 percent to $1.4 billion last year, buttressing its place as Shire’s bestseller. That far exceeded income for its closest branded competitor, Johnson & Johnson’s Concerta, which brought in $599 million, and Novartis AG’s Ritalin. Both of those drugs have lost patent protection.

Broader Uses

The focus on adults adds to Shire’s efforts to wring more sales out of its ADHD portfolio. The company reformulated its Adderall drug, which has generic competitors, into a long-acting treatment for adults that lasts 16 hours and plans to seek approval from U.S. regulators by the second quarter of 2017. Shire also won authorization to add treatment of binge-eating disorder as a new use for Vyvanse in January.

In Europe, children are still by far the larger segment, making up 74 percent of ADHD patients in 2014. “It is important to note that the level of acceptance, diagnosis and available medications for ADHD are more limited in Europe than the U.S.,” Shire said in an e-mailed statement.

That is starting to change, especially in Scandinavia and countries like Germany and Spain, according to Ornskov.

“Sweden is one of our fastest uptick markets, even beating the benchmarks for the U.S.,” he said.