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Marriage? Divorce? Depression? There's Nothing This ADHD Pill Can't Fix

Shire (SHPGY)'s announcement that high doses of its ADHD drug Vyvanse work better against daytime sleepiness than the leading drug, Cephalon (CEPH)'s Nuvigil, is not a surprise: Shire seems to believe that Vyvanse can do anything.

The company has previously pitched Vyvanse as an antidepressant add-on even though it's not approved for depression and Shire's own research found that it does not work for depression. That result emerged in 2010, three years after this "I'm depressed" campaign ran in medical journals (click to enlarge images).

Shire has also suggested that Vyvanse is a Stepford-esque romance aid. A March 2010 ad from Parenting magazine shows a blonde smiling ecstatically as she eats shrimp with her unseen husband. The copy reads:

  • 7.00AM: Ate breakfast and took Vyvanse.
  • 11:00AM: Organized the family photo album.
  • 5:00PM: Focused on getting dinner started for my kids.
  • 9:00PM: Was able to spend some time with my husband.
It's not just marriage. Vyvanse is also a divorce preventative. An "unbranded" ad ran in Psychiatric News in 2008, shortly after Vyvanse was launched to replace Adderall, which went generic. It shows a wedding photo with the bride scissored out. The ad says:
Adults with ADHD were almost 2 times more likely to be divorced.
If only she'd taken Vyvanse for breakfast she'd still be happy sorting photos and cooking shrimp for her husband and kids!

All this would be comic if it wasn't for the fact that people should probably be taking less Vyvanse, not more. The drug is better known to teenagers as "dexies," because it's made of dexadrine, an amphetamine that causes euphoria. Abuse of similar drugs such as Adderall, Provigil and Nuvigil on college campuses is rampant. You can score uppers -- including Vyvanse -- from a complete stranger in the library of University of Wisconsin-Madison in just 56 seconds, according to the Rapids Tribune.

The drug carries an FDA black box warning for its abuse potential, yet some doctors believe that it is less likely to be abused. Pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Kenny Handelman wrote on his blog:

Vyvanse is the first stimulant medicine made available with zero potential for abuse.
That's almost certainly balderdash, as the FDA warning and comments under his post suggest. The first one says:
Meghan: Hello Dr. Handelman. I am a 17 year old girl and I can tell you from personal experience that Vyvanse IS addicting. I am not prescribed but, I will do just about ANYTHING to get ahold of my pills.
Handelman's post is doubly troubling because if you read his description of why he believes it's impossible to abuse Vyvanse you can figure out the one way to do just that. If you're bad at reading between the lines, a more explicit guide to getting high on Vyvanse can be found here.

Could it possibly be that Shire's cornucopia of positionings for Vyvanse is a desire to grab a share of the revenues earned from those abusing neurological drugs? Yes, it could. The company told Wall Street analysts in 2009 that it was aware of incremental sales from "off-label," unapproved uses.


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