Could HSJ sound less like a tabloid and more like a professional paper with some clarity of concept and message?

The drug is methylphenidate, which is available as Ritalin, Equasym and in a range of ordinary and modified-release forms with names such as Concerta.

Nationwide variations in the way repeat prescriptions are handled could account for a 300 per cent difference in raw numbers of prescriptions.

Most prescriptions are repeats. In some districts GPs supply repeat scripts for 28 days as part of shared care arrangements. Some local prescribing committees still do not have shared care arrangements, and lack the facilities to print automated repeat scripts, so methylphenidate is prescribed in larger amounts - three or more months on one script. My own primary care trust straddles such a divide.

There are alternatives such as dexamphetamine and atomoxetine; the frequency of their prescription will have an effect on the methylphenidate numbers.

What we want to know is the number of children, preferably by age and gender, who are being prescribed methylphenidate and other medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Tom Hutchison, paediatrician, Bath