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Shire launches long-acting ADHD drug in UK

Published on 09/03/16 at 04:54pm

Shire has launched its long-acting ADHD drug Intuniv (guanfacine) in the UK, for children and adolescents aged 6-17. The treatment is indicated for those for whom stimulants are not suitable, not tolerated or have been shown to be ineffective.

ADHD is a common psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents, and is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO). Between 3 and 9% of school-age children and adolescents in the UK are estimated to be affected by the condition.

Since it is estimated that, in Europe, more than 10% of all children and adults with ADHD either do not respond to or do not tolerate treatment with stimulants, Intuniv is important as an alternative options, as the prolonged-release tablets are not  a central nervous system stimulant, but a selective alpha-2A adrenergic receptor agonist.

Studies suggest that the active ingredient, guanfacine, may exert physiological effects by stimulating this receptor in the prefrontal cortex: a region of the brain known to control several cognitive functions including attention and social behaviours. This part of the brain has been associated with some structural and functional abnormalities in individuals with ADHD.

Dr Chris Steer, consultant paediatrician, NHS Fife, comments: “Every child and adolescent with ADHD is unique, due to their varying needs and the different manifestations of this condition. The availability of the new non-stimulant, guanfacine prolonged release tablets, may represent an important alternative treatment option, enabling physicians to tailor ADHD therapy to those patients for whom stimulants are not suitable.”

Although European guidelines recommend against the use of non-stimulant ADHD drugs when stimulant treatment is inappropriate, until Intuniv’s launch, there was only one licensed non-stimulant treatment available in Europe, Eli Lilly’s Strattera (atomoxetine).

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has also now completed its assessment of Intuniv prolonged release tablets and has accepted the product for use in Scotland.

The European Commission approved the drug in September 2015.

Joel Levy

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