ADHD Medication Shortages

Published: April 19, 2024
Barbara Young
By Barbara Young, PharmD

If you or your child receive stimulant medications for ADHD, you may have recently had trouble getting prescriptions filled in a timely manner. Here are some of the reasons for the shortages, changes in progress to improve access, and suggestions for you to get your medication in a timely manner.

What factors are behind the shortage of medications for ADHD?
The shortage of stimulant medications for ADHD is a complex issue. Some of the reasons for these shortages include:

  • An increased diagnosis and prescribing of stimulants to children and adults. From 2012 to 2021, prescriptions for stimulant medications increased by 45.5% in the US. In 2020 to 2021, prescribing in females aged 15–44 years and males aged 25–44 years increased by 10%.
  • Decreases in production of these medications by certain manufacturers.
  • Shortages of raw ingredients necessary to manufacture these medications.
  • Because stimulant drugs have a high potential for abuse, there are limits on drug production by manufacturers set by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) so that manufacturers may not make more product than allocated by the DEA.
  • A domino effect for use of other related medications to replace the prescribed stimulant medication has occurred, thus creating shortage of these related medications.

What being done to Improve access to these medications?
Government agencies are taking steps to improve the access to these medications.

  • The DEA and FDA are working with manufacturers and suppliers to make sure that ingredients are available to make the full amount of medication allocated to manufacturers. If they can’t make the quota, then the DEA may reallocate that amount to another manufacturer.
  • The FDA is taking steps to support the development of non-stimulant options to improve symptoms in people with ADHD.
  • As of August 28, 2023, the DEA now allows the transfer and electronic prescription for scheduled drugs to another pharmacy.
  • Professional groups and healthcare providers are working to review guidelines for appropriate diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, especially in adults to provide advice for optimal care.

What can I do to get my medications?
Until the supply of certain stimulant medications improves, here are some suggestions for you to get your medication in a timely manner.

  • Allow extra time to fill the new prescription before you run out of your current supply of medication.
  • Call or visit multiple pharmacies to check their stock of the medication.
  • You may request that your pharmacist transfer the electronic prescription for scheduled drugs to another pharmacy without having your doctor reissue the prescription.
  • Ask the pharmacist when the next delivery is expected for your prescribed medication.
  • In consultation with your doctor, consider changing to a longer/shorter acting version of your medication.
  • Pay for a brand name drug instead of generic approved by your coverage provider. This will likely result in a higher cost.
  • As a last resort, your doctor may consider a change in your medication, such as to a nonstimulant medication.

Recent challenges in the supply and increased demand for ADHD stimulant medications have made it difficult to have prescriptions filled. Until the issue is resolved, be sure to work closely with your pharmacist to get the medications you need.

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