Shortage of ADHD Meds Leaves Parents & Patients Scrambling

Shortages of medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are leaving parents and patients scrambling. According to the Wall Street Journal, shortages of Adderall XR and its generic equivalents (also known as amphetamine mixed salts), as well as of methylphenidate (a generic version of the brand-name drug Ritalin) have recently been reported in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington state and elsewhere.

Parents are on the hunt for pharmacies that stock the medications, or are dipping into their pockets to pay full-price for alternatives. Or, in some cases, they’re rationing out their supplies:

Pharmacists say some customers have to pay the entire cost of a brand-name drug — which can exceed $200 a month — because their health plans cover only generics. The higher the price of a drug, the greater the likelihood a patient will not take a drug as prescribed, said Timothy Davis, pharmacist at Beaver Health Mart Pharmacy in Beaver, Pa. Mr. Davis said he has become adept at helping patients request that drug-benefit plans cover branded alternatives to generics that are in short supply.

To keep costs down, some patients have switched from one generic to another generic of a different drug. Generics are supposed to be therapeutically equivalent to branded drugs, but some patients experience differences going from one to the other. Others may switch from formulations taken once or twice a day to those requiring more frequent dosing — a disruption for school children who must leave class to take their dose at the nurse’s office.

Currently about 9.5% or 5.4 million children 4-17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention. Demand for the drugs has increased as diagnoses of ADHD have risen. According to IMS Health, medications for ADHD generated a combined 24.2 million prescriptions in 2010.

But the reason for the shortage is due to a delay in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration releasing extra supplies of the drug’s active ingredients, according to Matt Cabrey, spokesman for Shire PLC, which manufactures Adderall and its generic versions. The DEA monitors the active ingredients of some ADHD drugs as controlled substances. For instance, methylphenidate has been shown to have some benefits as a replacement therapy for individuals dependent on methamphetamine; methylphenidate has also been said to have a “high potential” for abuse and addiction.

Increased supplies of the ingredients should be available this month, so the shortage will most likely end. But perhaps the medicine shortage is a sign to give pause and consider whether there might be other ways to help those with ADHD besides medications and to ask if some may have become too reliant on them.


Photo via  Wikimedia Commons

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Cheryl O'Hara
Cheryl O'Hara3 years ago

Doctors who prescribe a substance to a child that in it's street form (cocaine,crack cocaine) causes gang wars, robberies, fills prisions, causes child abuse and neglect..... the list goes on...... am I the only one who sees the insanity of this!?!?

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago

thanks for telling the world

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago


Kat Baczynski
Kat Baczynski4 years ago

In regards to the medication shortage, it should be pointed out that these medications are used for conditions other than ADHD. I take Adderall for narcolepsy. Thank you for the article, my local pharmacies have been sending me to different places around town to fill my medication and I hadn't realized it was more than a local problem.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

there is a list of over 200 prescription drugs that big pharma is delberately phasing in shortages b/c they are older drugs and cheaper...big pharma wants us buying the brand new drugs that cost a fortune..

BTW..this is another area Obama sold us out on...he promised during his campaign to open up Canada and other countries to the US for comparison drug shopping..the US pays more than any country in the world for the same meds others are getting much cheaper. obama big liar.

Lisa C.
Lisa Cooper-Keil4 years ago

A recent study showed that allowing antsy kids to run around for 20 minutes worked better than Ritalin. In a society where $ is more important than children, and the goal is to shove as many kids into the same box as we can, where teachers are trying to cope with 35 - 45 kids at a time, where tests and memorization count more than critical thinking, there will always be an over reliance on drugs rather than individual plans.

George May
George May4 years ago

ADHD = bad parenting and lack of discipline.

leanne mcivor
leanne Torio4 years ago

It would be a cold day in hell before I drugged my children so they can be easier on a teacher to teach - deal with it!

Lin Moy
Lin M4 years ago

shame, hope it is corrected soon.

Liberty G.
Liberty Goodwin4 years ago

By the way, I deplore the personal attacks on Ms. Chew. While I disagree with much - possibly most - of her conclusions, I think it is wrong to therefore abuse her as an individual. There is no evidence that she is anything but a concerned parent - misguided and misled, in my opinion, but not a "paid shill" for drug companies. We will not achieve a better world and solve our problems effectively with vitriol directed at those who don't share our views.