FDA Confirms Adderall Shortage—What This Means for Caregivers and Their Children

The ongoing shortage could continue for about two to three months. Here is what caregivers do in the meantime.

White Adderall pills and bottle on dark blue surface

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that Adderall, the drug commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD), is in short supply on Wednesday.

The FDA posted about the limited supply of the immediate-release formulation of amphetamine mixed salts, better known by the brand name Adderall or Adderall IR, on its drug shortage website.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which owns the largest market share for Adderall in the U.S., "is experiencing ongoing intermittent manufacturing delays," the FDA said in a release.

Other manufacturers are producing amphetamine mixed salts, but the FDA says there is not enough supply to continue to meet the demand of U.S. producers.

Though the shortage is making headlines this week, it isn't new. Patients told KDKA, the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, that they started experiencing the shortage in August. An August survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) reported that more than two-thirds of respondents said they were having trouble getting Adderall.

About 6 million U.S. children ages 3 to 17 have ADHD, according to CDC data. This news will likely be frustrating for their parents, who may have also struggled with formula and childcare shortages in the last 2.5 years. Teva didn't have a precise timeline, but a company spokesperson told Bloomberg Law it estimated the limited supply will continue for about two to three more months and pointed to another shortage as the issue—labor. Teva cited historic demand as a reason for the issue in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

The FDA didn't offer any timetable, saying only that its measures to address the issue included posting about the supply issues, lists of current manufacturers, and their products' strengths on the website. The agency said it would continue to update the website as more information is available.

What Caregivers Can Do During the Adderall Shortage

No parent wants to see their child struggle, but they can't control the supply chain, either. So what are parents of children with ADHD to do?

"Until supply is restored, there are alternative therapies, including the extended-release version of amphetamine mixed salts available to health care professionals and their patients for amphetamine mixed salts' approved indications," the FDA said in a release.

Amy Morin, LCSW, echoes these sentiments.

"Parents can talk to their child's doctor to develop a plan for dealing with the medication shortage," says Morin, the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. "A doctor may be able to provide information on a reliable supplier, or they may be willing to switch medications."

Parents may be tempted to stretch medication out by only giving doses of it on school days, prioritizing times when a child may struggle the most without Adderall. But one pediatrician warns that can be a risky move and should never be taken without consultation with a pediatrician. Here's why:

Amanda Stovall, M.D., an Illinois-based pediatrician, explains that Adderall only stays in the system for a few hours if taken. But Stovall notes that the formulation (long-acting vs. short-acting), dose, and a how a child's body metabolizes the medication all factor into how long it stays in the system. All these factors vary by the child, and the same goes for children's individual needs.

"While it can be safe to not take it daily, any change to a medication regimen needs to be discussed with the prescribing physician beforehand," Dr. Stovall says. "If a child's impulsivity puts them at risk for harm, this would be a consideration in taking the medicine daily rather than on school days alone."

As for school, Morin recommends communicating with school staff if a child is not on their usual medication regimen and stresses teachers don't need to be worried at this time about behavioral challenges.

"Teachers don't necessarily need to be concerned as there are many different medications that treat ADHD," Morin says. "Parents can ask that they stay informed if a child is suddenly going to need to stop a certain medication."

Dr. Stovall agrees that communication is critical, especially right now.

"Teachers are an integral part of a child's treatment plan since they are our eyes and ears while at school," she says. "If a teacher notices a change in academic performance or behavior, I would encourage them to reach out to that parent."

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