Medications commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are in short supply because tight regulations by the US Drug Enforcement Agency are limiting the manufacture of the drugs, The Boston Globe reports. Parents whose children are on medications including Ritalin, Adderall, and their generic equivalents are more and more often having to jump through logistical hoops to get their kids' prescriptions filled.
Often, parents must come back to his office after an appointment to request a new prescription for a different dose pill, replacing a 30 milligram pill, for example, with three 10 milligram pills to be taken in the morning, since pharmacies aren't allowed to make these replacements on their own to handle shortages.
The drug that seems to be in the shortest supply? Adderall XR (extended release), said [Children's Hospital Boston's psychopharmacology director Dr. Joseph] Gonzalez-Heydrich, which is made by Shire and lost its patent two years ago. (The drug appears on this FDA list of drug shortages.)
Shire has instead been promoting and steadily producing its newer and more expensive drug Vyvanse -- which is in plentiful supply and works similarly to Adderall XR; the DEA allows manufacturers to decide how they will divvy up their restricted production among expensive brand names and lower-priced generics.
"I've switched a lot of my patients to Vyvanse since it's more in stock and has a similar action," said Gonzalez-Heydrich. But many are forced to pay more for the prescription as a result.
Those expecting to get a new prescription for their recently diagnosed child should be aware of the shortage and ask the doctor to call their local pharmacy to see what's in stock before walking out with a script.
Those bringing their child in for a prescription refill should call their pharmacy before their child's appointment -- even in the doctor's waiting room -- to find out whether the store has their child's prescription in stock and, if so, in what dosage.
"If they have the drug in stock, ask if the pharmacy can set aside some pills for a prescription that's about to be filled," if their stock is running low, advised Gonzalez-Heydrich. Doctors can't call in prescriptions, so pharmacies can sometimes run out during the time it takes to bring the script in to be filled.
Parents may also want to call around to other pharmacies to see what they have in stock, also before the doctor's appointment. That way, said Gonzalez-Heydrich, doctors can tailor the dose and number of pills based on what's in stock.
Image: Prescription medication, via Shutterstock.