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Voices: The Hunt For Elusive ADHD Drugs

Some attention deficit disorder drugs are running short around the country, and Massachusetts is no exception. In our report on the shortage and its possible causes, a leading ADHD expert, Dr. Edward Hallowell, says that the recent deficit of the drug Adderall “seems crazy.” He can prescribe substitutes, but otherwise, he doesn’t know what to tell his patients other than, “I guess, ‘Go shopping.’

Around the state, people are indeed going shopping — or perhaps “hunting” is a better word for the quest that many must undertake for the stimulants prescribed to offset Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Some need the medications for themselves, some for their children. Our initial post describes the oddly patchy shortages that one shopper encountered when calling around to various pharmacies in Brookline and Newton. In search of the bigger picture, I turned to Lisa Lambert, executive director of the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, which advocates for children with mental illness. She could teach Facebook a thing or two about social networking, and she kindly sent out our query to listservs run by Mass Family Voices and MassPAC. Nearly a dozen responses immediately rolled in from people struggling to find ADHD medications. Here’s a sampling:

From a Mansfield father of two daughters with attention deficit disorders:
“Just recently, I was getting the prescription filled for one of my daughters, and the doctor had written the usual prescription plus one that was faster-acting, and CVS didn’t have that one in stock — they’ve been backlogged for quite a while.
I pulled up to the drive-through window and the lady told me that for that particular Adderall, they were on back-order; they didn’t have any and they’re finding it’s universal, I probably wouldn’t find it at another drugstore either. I drove away thinking, ‘My God, why would it be a universal drop in that availability?’ There
is an incredible demand for this stuff. How, or in what way, or if at all that plays a role in the lack of its availability I don’t know.”

[Note: His experience jibes with the FDA list of drug shortages, which shows the current crunch largely in immediate-release stimulants rather than longer-acting ones.]

From a mother in Bridgewater, whose daughter takes a 40-milligram dose of long-acting Ritalin — no supply problems with that one — and then in the afternoon, a 20-milligram dose of immediate-release Ritalin. Continue reading