Neuroethics researchers at the IRCM argue that physicians should
consider refusing to prescribe the medication to healthy people
MONTREAL, Dec. 17, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Physicians should not prescribe
cognitive enhancers to healthy individuals, states a report being
published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). Dr. Eric Racine and his research team at the IRCM, the study's
authors, provide their recommendation based on the professional
integrity of physicians, the drugs' uncertain benefits and harms, and
limited health care resources.
Prescription stimulants and other neuropharmaceuticals, generally
prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD), are often used by
healthy people to enhance concentration, memory, alertness and mood, a
phenomenon described as cognitive enhancement.
"Individuals take prescription stimulants to perform better in school or
at work," says Dr. Racine, a Montréal neuroethics specialist and
Director of the Neuroethics research unit at the IRCM. "However,
because these drugs are available in Canada by prescription only,
people must request them from their doctors. Physicians are thus
important stakeholders in this debate, given the risks and regulations
of prescription drugs and the potential for requests from patients for
such cognitive enhancers."
The prevalence of cognitive enhancers used by students on university
campuses ranges from 1 per cent to 11 per cent. Taking such stimulants
is associated with risks of dependence, cardiovascular problems, and
"Current evidence has not shown that the desired benefits of enhanced
mental performance are achieved with these substances," explains
Cynthia Forlini, first author of the study and doctoral student in Dr.
Racine's research unit. "With uncertain benefits and clear harms, it is
difficult to support the notion that physicians should prescribe a
medication to a healthy individual for enhancement purposes."
"Physicians in Canada provide prescriptions through a publicly-funded
health care system with expanding demands for care," adds Ms. Forlini.
"Prescribing cognitive enhancers may therefore not be an appropriate
use of resources. The concern is that those who need the medication for
health reasons but cannot afford it will be at a disadvantage."
"An international bioethics discussion has surfaced on the ethics of
cognitive enhancement and the role of physicians in prescribing
stimulants to healthy people," concludes Dr. Racine. "We hope that our
analysis prompts reflection in the Canadian medical community about
these cognitive enhancers."
About the study
Éric Racine's research is funded through a New Investigator Award from
the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). The report's
co-author is Dr. Serge Gauthier from the McGill Centre for Studies in
About Dr. Eric Racine
Eric Racine obtained his PhD in applied human sciences and bioethics
from the Université de Montréal. He is an Associate IRCM Research
Professor and Director of the Neuroethics research unit. Dr. Racine is
an associate professor-researcher in the Department of Medicine
(accreditation in social and preventive medicine) at the Université de
Montréal. He is also adjunct professor in the Department of Medicine
(Division of Experimental Medicine) and the Department of Neurology and
Neurosurgery at McGill University. In addition, he is an affiliate
member of the Biomedical Ethics Unit at McGill University. For more
information, visit www.ircm.qc.ca/racine.
About the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)
Founded in 1967, the IRCM (www.ircm.qc.ca) is currently comprised of 37 research units in various fields, namely
immunity and viral infections, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases,
cancer, neurobiology and development, systems biology and medicinal
chemistry. It also houses three specialized research clinics, eight
core facilities and three research platforms with state-of-the-art
equipment. The IRCM employs 425 people and is an independent
institution affiliated with the Université de Montréal. The IRCM clinic
is associated to the Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal
(CHUM). The IRCM also maintains a long-standing association with McGill
About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
CIHR is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency.
CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and enable its
translation into better health, more effective health services and
products, and a stronger Canadian health care system. Composed of
13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than
14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada.
SOURCE: Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
For further information:
For more information and to schedule an interview with Eric Racine or Cynthia Forlini, please contact:
Communications Officer (IRCM)
Communications Director (IRCM)