Methylphenidate: Legal consequences

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 1:02 pm

Legal consequences of Methylphenidate

In the United States, the legal consequence of possession, illegal sale, or even giving away of MPH drugs can be severe under terms of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), which is part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, the legal foundation of the federal government’s fight against the abuse of drugs and other substances. Because of the abuse potential of MPH, the DEA has placed stringent Schedule II controls and licensing requirements on the manufacture, distribution, and prescription of the substance. Breaking those rules can result in fines and imprisonment.
Under Section 844 of the CSA, simple possession of a controlled substance (including methylphenidate) without a doctor’s prescription can result in imprisonment for one year for a first offense and a fine of $1,000 or both. A second offense can result in imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of $2,500. A third offense can result in up to three years of prison time and a fine of $5,000.
Distribution, which includes selling or even giving any mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methylphenidate is illegal under CSA Section 841. For a first offense, it is punishable by a prison term of not more than 20 years and fines up to $ 1 million for an individual or $5 million if not an individual. If death or serious bodily injury results, imprisonment terms not less than 20 years or more than life. A second offense is punishable by a prison term of not more than 30 years, and a fine of up to $2 million for an individual or up to $10 million if not an individual. If death or serious injury results, life imprisonment is the punishment. A person convicted of selling MPH to someone younger than 21 years of age is subject to “twice the maximum punishment authorized.”

Legal history

The FDA approved Ritalin, the original brand name of methylphenidate, in 1961 as a Schedule II drug. When the U.S. Congress passed the CSA in 1970, MPH, as a controlled Schedule II substance, came under the regulation of that law.
In 2001, plaintiffs representing children treated with Ritalin filed a federal lawsuit against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. (the manufacturers of Ritalin), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), and the Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder organization (CHADD). The lawsuit charged that the trio of organizations had conspired to increase the sales of MPH by broadening the definition of ADHD in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The plaintiffs also criticized CHADD for accepting grant money from Novartis.
However, senior U.S. District Judge Rudi Brewster ruled that the plaintiffs did not have enough evidence to support their claims. He gave them additional time to produce new evidence, but when they failed to do so he ultimately dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs cannot re-file it.
In 2002, several states, including Connecticut and Minnesota, passed laws that ban teachers from recommending psychotropic drugs, especially Ritalin, to parents. The legislators were concerned that educators were pressuring parents to put their children on MPH so that it would be easier for teachers to deal with ADHD kids in classrooms. Legislators believe it should be up to parents and their doctors to decide whether their children should be put on the drug.

Federal guidelines, regulations, and penalties

Since methylphenidate is a Schedule II controlled substance, it is tightly regulated from manufacture to delivery to the doctor or pharmacy. Schedule II drugs require strict manufacturing quotas, careful inventory controls that require special order forms, and separate record-keeping requirements. Prescriptions may not be refilled — a new prescription is required for every new supply. Unlike less stringently regulated drugs, the methylphenidate prescriptions cannot be phoned in to the pharmacy; the prescriptions must be written. Some states such as California and Indiana require special numbered and triplicate prescription forms for tracking purposes. Breaking those regulations can result in jail time of up to one year and a fine of $25,000, according to CSA Section 842: Prohibited Acts B.

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