If you fill prescriptions to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Ritalin or Adderall, you know the generic versions of these medications have been in limited supply since 2011. But drug makers have told the Food and Drug Administration that they will release enough medication--particularly the short-acting versions of these drugs--in April, which should end the shortage, according to FDA spokesperson, Shelly Burgess.
The exact reason for the ongoing shortage is unclear. The active ingredients in most ADHD drugs, amphetamine salts or methylphenidate, are controlled substances, so the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sets annual quotas limiting the amount of those stimulants that can be produced or purchased by companies that manufacture the drugs.
Manufacturers have said that they have not been allotted enough of the active ingredient by the DEA; the DEA has said that manufacturers used their allotments to produce too many low-demand ADHD drugs and not enough of the drugs in higher demand--for example, producing too few 5 mg tablets and too many 15 and 20 mg tablets, which can't be split in half and used by patients who only take a 5 mg dosage.
"Companies take their allotments and produce various sorts of Adderall-type products--extended relief, extra strength--in different amounts," says DEA spokesperson Rusty Payne. "Sometimes their calculations are not what they had hoped."
In January, the DEA raised manufacturers' annual amphetamine salts quotas by one-third after limits had been at a static level for the last several years. That should alleviate the problems, Payne says.
In the meantime, if you're having trouble finding the drug you need, tell your doctor before you run out of medication. "There may be alternatives that can be prescribed," FDA's Burgess says.
Another option: Persistence. Calling several drugstores could pay off, because many competing pharmacies get their medications from different sources. In cases like this, "Be flexible about which pharmacy you go to," says Erin R. Fox, PharmD, manager of the Drug Information Service for University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics. "Just because your usual pharmacy doesn't have your medication doesn't mean another won't."
Read more information about treating the symptoms of ADHD in children--including understanding more about the effectiveness and safety of the medications--in our free Best Buy Drugs report.