Food and Drug Administration officials have confirmed what pharmacists have known for weeks: there’s not enough Adderall to go around. The agency declared an official shortage of the stimulant on Wednesday. And though it is focusing on Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes the bulk of the U.S. stimulant supply, other generic makers aren’t manufacturing enough of the drug either. “There is not sufficient supply to continue to meet U.S. market demand,” said the FDA in its announcement.
Adderall is an amphetamine mixed salt approved for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In addition to its approved use, the stimulant is a widely abused study drug, used for its known effects of improving focus. It’s designated as a Schedule II controlled substance by the FDA. Yet for those who rely on the medication to manage their ADHD, the shortage is already likely impacting quality of life.
Dr. David Goodman, the director of the Adult ADHD Center of Maryland, told The New York Times that patients have been frequently reporting an inability to get their prescriptions filled. The psychiatrist noted that his office has been routinely adjusting and reissuing prescriptions to try to assist patients in their search for their medication. About 64% of surveyed pharmacists noted difficulty sourcing Adderall over the summer, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association.
The FDA has chalked the shortage up to “ongoing intermittent manufacturing delays” at Teva, but other factors beyond supply chain issues are likely also at play. Teva has said it’s on track to produce as much or more of the amphetamine this year as last, but claimed that the demand for the drug is simply higher.
“The supply that we are manufacturing/distributing right now is on pace to be consistent—or greater than—our supply at this time last year by the end of the year. The demand is not,” said the company in a statement to ABC News.
ADHD is becoming a more common diagnosis. And simultaneously, extralegal Adderall use may also be on the rise. Prescriptions for Adderall have increased sharply in recent years, based on data from analytics company Trilliant Health. In just a few months during 2021, prescriptions shot up by more than 15% in the 22-44 patient age bracket. Notably, the rate of this increase exceeded the rise in patient visits for ADHD—signaling that some may be getting their prescriptions without a diagnosis or through some of the shady online pharmacy start-ups that proliferated during the pandemic.
Two of these telehealth companies, Cerebral and Done Health, are already under federal investigation for potential violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Earlier this year, CVS said it would no longer fill prescriptions for ADHD medication or other controlled substances from either provider.
For now, while the shortage persists, the FDA recommends that patients discuss their best treatment options with their doctor. The administration pointed out that “there are other therapies including the extended-release version of amphetamine mixed salts available.” Most dosages of the immediate release version of the drug, currently on backorder, are expected to be available again in March.