After months of Americans being unable to fill their drug prescriptions for medications that are commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said yesterday that the shortages are expected to end this month.
Many ADHD medications, such as Adderall, have been in short supply since 2011.
Two federal government agencies have been finger-pointing to lay the blame. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has the final say over the active ingredients in many ADHD medications, however, because the active ingredients are considered controlled substances. Active ingredients include amphetamine salts and methylphenidate.
The FDA only oversees the safety and efficacy of prescription drugs in the U.S.; it has no control over drug availability.
In 2011, the DEA steadfastly refused to raise the annual manufacturing quotas of these ingredients, suggesting it was the manufacturers to blame for the shortages. In January 2012, the DEA finally relented after increasing public pressure to fix the shortage, and raised manufacturers’ quotas by one-third.
The problem resulted in a shortage of lower-dose ADHD drugs, such as 5 mg pills and too many larger-dose versions of ADHD medications being available on the market that couldn’t be split into smaller doses.
In continuing to lay the blame at the feet of manufacturers, a DEA spokesperson said, “Companies take their allotments and produce various sorts of Adderall-type products — extended relief, extra strength — in different amounts.
“Sometimes their calculations are not what they had hoped.”
The DEA apparently assumes market conditions for medications remains static and has no allowances for market shortages.
The symptoms of attention deficit disorder include inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, or a combination of these. They must occur in more than one setting (e.g., at work or school and at home), and the symptoms usually must be present for more than six months in order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be made.
There are two options for people looking to fill their ADHD prescription. One is to call around to different pharmacies and drugstores, as you may find a pharmacy that has access to the drug while another one does not.
Second is to talk to your doctor about switching to a different ADHD medication in the meantime, as some medications are more readily available than others.