America is running our of Ritalin! Parents are frantically running around trying to find pharmacies that still have some in stock. You might think that what I have just written is the making of good fiction, perhaps a Hollywood satire, but I’m afraid that it’s a true story, with potentially huge ramifications.
Nationwide shortages of popular drugs used to treat ADD and ADHD are sending parents scrambling, with some combing multiple pharmacies for the Adderall and Ritalin that keep their kids calm.
Molly Taylor, 46, of Worcester, Mass., was turned away empty-handed this week when she went to pick up prescriptions of Adderall XR for herself and her 16-year-old son, Luke.
“They don’t have them,” an incredulous Taylor told msnbc.com. “You could be waiting several days, which would have a HUGE impact. If you can’t get it that day, it’s very, very difficult.”
In the past two weeks, federal Food and Drug Administration officials added the drugs methylphenidate hydrochloride and amphetamine mixed salts, the generic names for Ritalin and Adderall, to an expanding list of national drug shortages. Some distributors cite manufacturing delays and increased demand as the reasons; others offer no explanation for the shortages.
But the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which tracks drug supply issues, has listed the products in short supply for nearly a month, and there have been regional reports of spotty shortages even before that.
5.4 million children have ADHD
In the United States, an estimated 5.4 million children ages 4 to 17 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and 66 percent of those with current ADHD take medication to control the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year, that amounted to 152 million units sold of Adderall and Adderall XR, the extended-release version of the pill, 35 million units of Ritalin and nearly 702 million units of generic ADHD drugs, with sales totaling more than $1.2 billion, according to data from Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions.
For millions of children — and adults — the stimulant medications ease the symptoms of ADHD, allowing them to control distracted thoughts and behavior well enough to participate in school, work and social life.
The drugs are taken daily, but when patients miss even one dose, the consequences can be swift, said Ruth Hughes, interim chief executive of the organization CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
“The symptoms come back very quickly,” said Hughes, who is the mother of an adult son with ADHD. “If you start that spiral, within 24 hours you begin to get in the loop of negative feedback. It doesn’t take very long until it has a truly negative impact.”
The current shortages affect various doses of the medications supplied by several manufacturers of brand-name and generic drugs. That means patients who find they can’t get their usual prescriptions might be able to find a similar drug in a different strength, made by a different manufacturer.
However, because the drugs are tightly controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, prescriptions are doled out only a month at a time, and patients have to visit their doctors in order to authorize new drugs, which could be more expensive than the old ones.
“Tightly controlled”? You have got to be kidding me! This is sickening! How can we sit and watch our kids being prescribed these drugs in the millions and not wonder whether or not these kids really have ADD and ADHD? How can you get to the point where demand for a drug for children is so readily prescribed that demand exceeds supply?
It seems like pharmaceutical companies are winning, and we are sitting there silently letting them. It is time for a parliamentary inquiry on this issue. Doctors and teachers in particular need to be accountable for their role in this situation.
Surely when a drug becomes so rampantly prescribed that drug companies struggle to meet demand, there is something not quite right going on? Or am I the only one that thinks this is the case?