Over the weekend, The New York Times took an in-depth look at the problem and revealed the surprising details of what’s actually going on. It turns out that two federal agencies, The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), are in conflict over the shortage.
The DEA limits the supply of ingredients that drug manufacturers use to make medications by the use of quotas. The quotas are designed to ensure that the medications are not abused, especially as more and more media reports surface about college students with and without ADHD who abuse medications.
However, legitimate prescriptions for ADHD medications are also on the rise. While some claim that more and more people are being inaccurately diagnosed with ADHD, prominent doctors and researchers in the field believe that an increase in public awareness has led more people to seek a diagnosis and treatment. Either way, the demand for ADHD meds is exceeding the supply.
The manufacturers of brand name drugs like Ritalin and Adderall also make their generic counterparts, and there isn’t enough of the DEA-controlled ingredients to go around. The DEA accuses the drug manufacturers of putting everything into the brand name drugs to make higher profits, a claim the drug manufacturers deny.
The FDA, which monitors drug safety and supply, seems to agree with the drug manufacturers, and blames the shortage on the DEA’s overly strict quotas. But the FDA has no power to do anything about the quotas, so the two agencies remain at odds.
The real problem here is that it’s the patients who are paying for the conflict. Some patients are having to travel great distances to find pharmacies that are stocked with enough generic drugs to fill their prescriptions. Some are having to lay out a lot of extra cash to have their prescriptions filled with brand name drugs. And many are forced to go without any medication at all.
Ruth Hughes, chief executive of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a patient advocacy organization, said the drug shortages had become so acute that many patients were going untreated, increasing their risks of deadly traffic accidents and job dismissals. “The consequences of not getting treatment can be devastating,” Ms. Hughes said.
To further complicate the matter, many people, including myself, went through months of trial and error to find the right ADHD medication. A number of people simply don’t respond well to certain ADHD medications, so if their medication isn’t available, they have no alternative.
Perhaps the saddest fact in all this is that there doesn’t seem to be a resolution in sight. So what is an adult ADHDer to do? Coaches like me are fond of saying that “pills don’t build skills,” but it’s also true that there’s no easy fix for biologically-based medical symptoms.
We’ll keep you posted as the story develops. In the meantime…
Have YOU been affected by the ADHD medication shortage? How has it affected you? Your work? Your family? Please tell us! I’d really like to hear your first-hand experiences.