12 Oct 2022

GP's lawyer argues meth availability cuts demand for ADHD medications abuse

6:36 am on 12 October 2022

The widespread availability of meth has cut demand for the recreational abuse of ADHD medications like Ritalin, a tribunal has been told.

Dr Tony Hanne

GP Tony Hanne is accused of wrongly prescribing thousands of doses of Ritalin and other medication. Photo: Supplied

The issue was raised at a disciplinary tribunal for a prominent GP Tony Hanne, who faces charges of not getting approval from a psychiatrist or a paediatrician before prescribing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medication to patients more than 5000 times.

The prosecution said the rules were to prevent abuse of the meds, which are a class B controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The medicines, which are central nervous system stimulants, were categorised that way because they were potentially harmful if misused.

But Hanne's lawyer, Harry Waalkens KC, pushed back on the level of risk they posed as a recreational drug.

He planned to present expert evidence later in hearing but raised some of it when cross-examining witnesses yesterday.

"Because of the availability of methamphetamine which, sadly, is ... not difficult to access in the marketplace, people who want to adopt a nonmedical use of a stimulant, will go that way rather down the path of these medications," he said.

In addition, ADHD medication often made people feel unwell if not used properly, he said.

Pharmac chief medical officer David Hughes said police told an interagency hui on ADHD in August that the drugs were not on their radar.

They said concerns about their misuse 25 years ago had been greatly lessened because of the overwhelming supply of methamphetamine, Hughes said.

He supported a review of the strict rules, which had been in place since the 1990s but stressed nothing formal had begun.

A now-retired psychiatrist, Allan Taylor, who worked with Hanne to approve prescriptions without seeing patients, said the GP was meticulous about avoiding prescribing to drug abusers.

"His whole staff was involved in making sure these particular patients did not receive that medication," he said.

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