'I want to let children have a voice to understand the impact of ritalin'

October 6, 2006

Ilina Singh has won a Wellcome Trust award to help her pursue groundbreaking work on hyperactive children

A researcher investigating hyperactivity in children has won the Wellcome Trust's first University Award in Biomedical Ethics.

Ilina Singh takes up a lectureship in bioethics and society at the London School of Economics, allowing her to continue groundbreaking research into attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the ethical issues surrounding administration of stimulant drugs to children.

Wellcome's university awards support researchers for up to five years, after which they take up a guaranteed permanent post in their institution.

ADHD is estimated to affect 6-15 per cent of children in the US compared with 1-3 per cent in the UK, with the drug methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin) the most common form of treatment.

There has been a great deal of research and debate about the use of Ritalin-type drugs, but Dr Singh is finding out what children think. She will interview three groups of children in the UK and US: those taking medication after a diagnosis of ADHD, those "at risk" but not taking medication, and those without problems.

"I'm not looking to confirm or deny the utility of this drug, but to let children have a voice in helping us understand what the impact of this medicine is," she said.

Clare Matterson, director of medicine, society and history at Wellcome, said: "This is the first time we have made a University Award in Bioethics. It reflects our commitment to build capacity by supporting the careers of first-class academics in this area."

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