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Shortages of ADHD drugs expected during 2012 Posted 20/01/2012

Drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are in such short supply that FDA has reported that it receives hundreds of complaints from patients unable to fill their prescriptions.

The problem seems to have arisen due to tight regulation and quotas put in place by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is trying to prevent stockpiling and abuse of these addictive drugs. ADHD drugs are apparently popular with college students, who use the drugs illegally to get high or improve test results.

The DEA only authorises a certain amount of the active pharmaceutical ingredient in ADHD drugs to be released to drugmakers each year based on the previous year’s usage and what the agency considers to be the country’s legitimate medical need. However, several manufacturers have announced shortages with their ADHD drugs and according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the shortages are ‘widespread across a number of states’ and the effects are ‘devastating’ for children.

According to The New York Times the quotas set by the DEA may be too low, given the growth in ADHD prescriptions. However, how each manufacturer divides its quota among its own ADHD medicines – whether high-priced brand-name or cheaper generic medicines – is left up to the company. Companies that make both understandably have a greater incentive to turn out more of the brand-name drugs, as they bring in more profit. This has caused shortages, particularly of cheaper generics, to become so bad that some patients say they worry almost constantly about availability.

Even FDA is worried about the issue. Ms Valerie Jensen, Associate Director of FDA’s drug shortage programme told The New York Times ‘we have reached out to the DEA and told them that there are shortage issues...but the quota issues are outside of our area of responsibility.’

‘I am very concerned about the future,’ Dr Ruth Hughes, Chief Executive of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), told Reuters. ‘No one seems to have much inventory to get us through the months ahead. Someone needs to own this problem and take the initiative to fix it.’

ADHD affects 3–5% of children globally, with 30–50% of those individuals diagnosed in childhood continuing to have symptoms into adulthood. Symptoms include problems paying attention and hyperactivity. According to The New York Times, doctors wrote 51.5 million prescriptions for ADHD drugs in 2010.

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Source: Reuters, The New York Times

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