Sheila McClear was unhappy when she called her pharmacy a few months ago to renew her Adderall prescription. They said, “We don’t even have one pill left in the pharmacy.”
She learned about the Adderall shortage by talking to a friend. McClear has a friend that bought Adderall from the street rather than calling pharmacies one at a time.
Adderall, a commonly prescribed drug for ADHD treatment in adults and children, is used by nearly 20 million people annually. McClear, a New York-based writer, is an expert in ADHD. The basics of her daily life, such as meeting deadlines and getting things done, are much more difficult without this drug.
She spent several weeks searching for the drug. She tried other drugs in the meantime to improve her concentration. She tried 5-Hour energy drinks. She hates 5 Hour Energy drinks. McClear claims that she and her provider called at least 18 pharmacies to find some pills. She found a pharmacy that would fill her prescription. She keeps the remaining Adderall inside a small glass vial near her stove. She has been watching the amount diminish day by day. She is worried about what will happen if she calls pharmacies again.
“People do not always take Adderall seriously, but tell someone that you can’t give them their blood pressure medication for eight days. “McClear said. To survive in the modern world, you must be able to do things. Adderall is a stimulant that helps you get things done. “You’re not functioning if you don’t take Adderall.”
In a recent episode of What Next, I investigated why pharmacies all over the U.S. struggle to fill one of the most popular prescriptions. Below is a transcript of the attack. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Mary Harris: Ike has been following the Adderall shortage for Bloomberg News since last summer. He covers health. I called him to ask how patients such as Sheila McClear came to hoard their psychiatric medications.
Swetlitz said this shortage is strange for many reasons. Let’s start with how he heard about it. He was doing a story on ADHD, and people he interviewed kept saying how difficult it was to get their medication.
Ike Swatlitz: I thought that sounded a bit strange. It could be something with the pharmacy. I called other patients’ pharmacists and searched online to see what others were saying. I found a Reddit post where several people wrote about their difficulties filling Adderall orders. One told me he had contacted the FDA to find out what was happening. The FDA informed him that Teva is the pharmaceutical manufacturer that produces most Adderall in the United States.
This news was released by accident. However, it is not something that should be revealed by chance. There should be some statement. People must be aware of the shortage of popular medicine.
The FDA did not make any announcements at that time. The FDA says they do not want to alarm people when they are working to prevent a shortage because everyone will try to stockpile it and make things worse.
In October, the FDA finally acknowledged what was happening. There were still questions about why pharmacies failed to deliver.
Teva, which manufactures Adderall, has tried to explain a bit about the shortage. What did they say?
They claimed that there needed to be more workers on the packaging line. The specifics of this labor shortage still need to be clarified. The government has said that the labor shortage was resolved by summer, but the backlog caused the shortage we saw afterward.
Why did it take so long?
It’s just a matter of time before they catch up. While Teva is doing this, the customers – the pharmacies and wholesalers who buy the medication from the manufacturers, then give it to their patients – would turn to other manufacturers to purchase Adderall. These drug manufacturers had yet to anticipate the increase in demand by those who previously bought it from Teva. It spread throughout the market.
While one manufacturer after another attempted to compensate for Teva’s labor shortages, there was also a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking ADHD medications. The Washington Post estimates that prescriptions for Adderall rose by 30 percent over the last five years.
It’s a big problem because the government controls the amount of Adderall that can be produced. It’s classified as “Schedule II,” a controlled substance in the same class as opioids such as oxycodone. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sets a “quota” for the amount of raw amphetamine required to take Adderall. No one can make Adderall without DEA approval.
The federal government will then set the total quota of raw ingredients that everyone can produce together. Each manufacturer would then apply to the federal government to say, “OK, we would like to produce this amount.” The government would evaluate these applications and distribute the total quota to all manufacturers. The federal government and the manufacturers may request to adjust these numbers at any time during the year if they feel that more is needed to meet consumer needs. It’s not fixed in stone. These adjustments could be made.
When Teva realized they didn’t have enough Adderall, did they tell the DEA, “Hey we need to adjust our quotas because we won’t be able supply all of the people who are in need with the drug we have now.”?
Teva still needs to answer my question. Another giant generic drugmaker confirmed that they had requested more. A portion of the request was granted, while other parts were denied. Teva and the DEA still need to answer my question.
What does the DEA have to say about this excuse, “Well, this year our quotas didn’t work, so this is resulting in a shorter supply.”? Do they say it’s not true?
The DEA gave me some numbers on this. The DEA gets reports from the companies at the end. The DEA told me there was a large amount of raw amphetamine material still in the warehouses of companies at the end of last year.
They’re telling you to “Use leftovers.”
Yeah. It’s complicated because it needs to be made clear who owns these leftovers. Adderall is made by companies that produce active pharmaceutical ingredients. Then some companies make the actual pills you take. We need to find out who or where the element is. The DEA says that the raw ingredients are available on the market. Quotas do not cause the shortage.
Hmm. It doesn’t sound very clear. It’s like I need to find out who is right or what’s the truth.
Yes, I’m with you. It isn’t very clear. They aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. One company may have run out of its quota, while another has plenty left. The numbers of the quotas allocated to each company are not available to us to determine if this is happening.
Can you solve the problem when you first started writing about it?
Well, I’ve always wanted to. As I began to report the story, it became clear that this wasn’t the first instance of something similar. In 2011 and 201 2, there were Adderall shortages. The FDA said at the time that the DEA quotas contributed to the need. The DEA stated that drug companies had produced enough and people should take a look at the products they chose to make. This was a familiar situation. I always hope to find the truth. This was pointing to a deeper problem.