The pharmacy companies said they didn’t always have Adderall.
“There are supply chain challenges with this drug,” Walgreens spokeswoman Rebecca Bajak said. She said the issues affect both the immediate release and the extended release Adderall. CVS spokesman Matthew Blanchett said the company’s pharmacies are able to fill Adderall prescriptions “in most cases.”
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Several drug manufacturers had put the brand or generic pill in late order over the past month. The problems started with a labor shortage at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. , the largest seller of Adderall in the United States, resulting in limited supply of the brand-name and generic immediate-release Adderall. Soon, Teva and three other companies – Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Rhodes Pharmaceuticals LP, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma LP and a Sandoz unit of Novartis AG – extended-release generic Adderall on back order.
The disturbances are occurring at a time of record high demand driven by the increase in ADHD diagnoses. During the Covid pandemic, the federal government has also made it easier for doctors to prescribe medications through telehealth appointments, removing barriers to accessing them, and enabling the growth of online startups that connect patients with prescribers.
Some of those prescription startups have come under scrutiny. Bloomberg previously reported on violent prescribing practices at startup Cerebral Inc. and Done Health. The brain stopped prescribing many of the controlled substances, including ADHD, although it continued to do so.
Bloomberg reported in May that the DEA interviewed Cerebral employees. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the agency has also questioned people about Done.
DEA spokesman Kathryn Pfaff declined to comment. An unnamed spokesperson for Done said the company had not received any information regarding the investigation.
Anthony Anderson, a 34-year-old special education teacher at a Michigan high school, said he hasn’t had Adderall since Sept. 6. He’s been on medication for 15 years for his ADHD, and without it, he says it’s incredibly difficult to focus, making it hard for him to do the job. Sometimes he forgets what he’s talking about mid-sentence.
Anderson was recently talking to a student about suicide at school, and while he was supposed to help the grieving student, he couldn’t pay attention.
“I veer apart a lot when trying to have a serious conversation with this girl to console her, but diverge because I am unable to concentrate,” he said. “This is a big problem for me.”
He said he called Walgreens on September 14, more than a week after he first tried to fill a prescription, and was told they might not have a pill until early October.
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Bloomberg spoke with two workers at a Walgreens pharmacy in the Midwest who said drug dispenser AmerisourceBergen Corp. had run out of stock of several doses of Adderall in their area, including the most popular 20-milligram pills. AmerisourceBergen did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its Midwest supply.
The Food and Drug Administration, which maintains official lists of deficient drugs in the United States, does not currently report a shortage of Adderall.
But a survey from the National Association of Pharmacists found that hundreds of independent pharmacies reported difficulty ordering Adderall this summer. The FDA reported shortages of the drug earlier this year, as part of a supply outage that lasted from September 2019 through May 2022.
The Food and Drug Administration says on its website that it publishes drug shortages “once it has confirmed that overall market demand is not being met by the manufacturers of the product.”
“Manufacturers are continuing to release the product,” FDA spokeswoman Sherry Duval-Jones said. Please continue to view our website for any updates or contact manufacturers for additional information.
People trying to fill prescriptions for Adderall face additional hurdles because the drug is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Because of Adderall’s potential for abuse, in most states, patients can only get a month’s supply at a time, and generally can only do so a few days before their previous prescription runs out. If the pharmacy receiving the prescription does not have the pills in stock, the patient may be asked to contact other pharmacies to find one.
Several patients have told Bloomberg that they have had trouble filling their prescriptions in recent weeks, and some have had to go from pharmacy to pharmacy to try and find the drug. Some did not want to print their full names to protect their privacy.
Brendan Keough was fortunate in his search. The 26-year-old Chicago said he went to Walgreens on August 24 for the month’s supply of grain, but was told they were in late order with no expected arrival date. He managed to find the drug a few days later at Walmart, but in the meantime, he said, he became depressed, irritable and anxious. He said it’s been hard for him to do his job – he’s a sales manager at a car dealership, which requires keeping track of numbers and making a lot of social interactions.
While researching, he wondered if he would have to resort to buying it illegally. But this worried him more — he knows street drugs are often fake and contain fentanyl, an addictive opioid that can kill in small doses.
“It kind of scared me,” he said.
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