Michael Kohn

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Today (Wednesday 13 July 2011) Mental Health Minister Mark Butler announced the membership of the committee responsible for developing new Australian guidelines on ADHD. Of the ten members invited to participate, two have significant conflicts of interest that should preclude their involvement. However, this compares very favorably to previous ADHD guideline development processes which have been dominated by pharmaceutical company allies who have relied on commercially compromised research.

It is also, for the first time, an open process. We know from the start who is developing the guidelines and the details of their conflict of interest declaration. (see http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/adhd-conflicts-interest ) Gillard Government Mental Health Minister Mark Butler deserves credit for this. Let us hope this creates a precedent for future commonwealth government medical guidelines and advisory committee processes.

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Open letter to Professor Michael Kohn

Dear Professor Michael Kohn,

Despite significant longstanding evidence to the contrary a recent article in the Daily Telegraph stated:

“Westmead Hospital pediatrician Professor Michael Kohn, who has patients under the age of six, said… more evidence had recently come to light which confirmed that children with ADHD had brains that developed slower. Stimulant medication like Ritalin helped brain growth. “Children with ADHD have a lower rate of brain growth and development and they do not reach the same peak of brain growth that children without ADHD do,” Prof Kohn said. “When we give them stimulant medication, scans show a more normal pattern of brain development than would otherwise have occurred.[1]

This letter seeks evidence supporting your claim that giving ‘ADHD’ children stimulants, amphetamines (dexamphetamine) and amphetamine-like drugs (Ritalin, Concerta) aids in ‘brain development’. I am very surprised by this claim as numerous studies have long established that the use of psycho-stimulants by children has regularly resulted in gross malfunctions in the brain, and ‘can cause shrinkage (atrophy) or other permanent physical abnormalities.[2] As this is the opposite of what you are claiming, I would like to have access to any contradictory new evidence and if it is valid help to publicise it. If, however, there is not adequate supporting evidence I would welcome an explanation of why you made this surprising claim.

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