The pharmacy companies said they didn’t always have Adderall available.
“There are supply chain challenges with this drug,” said Walgreens spokesman Rebekah Pajak. The issues affect Adderall with both instant-release and extended-release, she said. CVS spokesman Matthew Blanchette said the company’s pharmacies can fill Adderall prescriptions “in most cases.”
Access all our coverage with a subscription to Crain’s Chicago Business.
Several drug manufacturers have had the branded or generic pills on backorder in the past month. The problems started with a labor shortage at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Adderall’s best seller in the US, which led to a limited supply of Adderall brand name and generic instant release. Shortly thereafter, Teva and three other companies — Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc., Rhodes Pharmaceuticals LP, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma LP, and the Sandoz unit of Novartis AG — had extended-release generic Adderall on back order.
The disruptions come at a time of record high demand driven by rising ADHD diagnoses. During the Covid pandemic, the federal government has also made it easier for clinicians to prescribe the drugs through telehealth appointments, removing barriers to entry and also enabling the growth of online startups that connect patients with prescribers. .
Some of those prescription startups have come under scrutiny. Bloomberg has previously reported on aggressive prescribing practices at the startups Cerebral Inc. and DoneHealth. Cerebral has stopped prescribing many controlled substances, including for ADHD, although Done continues to do so.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has interviewed Cerebral employees, Bloomberg reported in May. The agency also questioned people about Done, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
DEA spokesman Katherine Pfaff declined to comment. A spokesperson for Done who did not give his name said the company has not received any information about an 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 using the drug to treat his ADHD for 15 years, and without it it’s incredibly difficult to concentrate, which makes doing this job a challenge for him. Sometimes he forgets what he’s talking about halfway through a sentence.
Anderson recently spoke to a student about suicide at school, and at a time when he was about to help the grieving student, he just couldn’t pay attention.
“I’ve even distanced myself when I’m trying to have a serious conversation with this girl to comfort her, but I’ve distanced myself because I can’t concentrate,” he said. “This is a big problem for me.”
He said he last called Walgreens on Sept. 14, more than a week after he first tried to fill the prescription, and was told they might not have the pills until early October.
Not a subscriber? We have options to suit your needs.
Bloomberg spoke to two Walgreens pharmacy associates in the Midwest, who said pharmaceutical distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp. had no stock of various Adderall doses in their area, including the most popular 20-milligram pills. AmerisourceBergen did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their Midwestern offering.
The Food and Drug Administration, which maintains official lists of deficient drugs in the US, currently reports no deficiency of Adderall.
But a survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association found that hundreds of independent pharmacies struggled to order Adderall this summer. And the FDA reported shortages of the drug earlier this year, as part of a supply interruption that ran from September 2019 to May 2022.
The FDA says on their website that it will publish drug shortages “once it has confirmed that the manufacturers of the product are not meeting general market demand.”
“Manufacturers continue to release products,” said FDA spokesman Cherie Duvall-Jones. “Keep checking our website for updates or contact the manufacturers for additional information.”
People trying to fill Adderall prescriptions face additional hurdles because the drug is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the DEA.
Because of Adderall’s potential for abuse, patients in most states can only pick up a month’s supply at a time, and generally can only do so a few days before their previous prescription expires. If the pharmacy receiving the prescription does not have the pills in stock, the patient may be told to call other pharmacies to find one that does.
Many patients told Bloomberg that in recent weeks they had struggled to fill their prescriptions, and some had to go from pharmacy to pharmacy to find the drug. Some did not want their full names printed to protect their privacy.
Brendan Keough was lucky in his search. The 26-year-old Chicagoan said he went to Walgreens on August 24 to pick up the month’s supply of pills, but was told they were on back order with no expected arrival date. He was able to find the drug at a Walmart a few days later, but in the meantime he reportedly became depressed, irritable and anxious. He said it was difficult for him to do his job – he is a sales manager at a car dealership, which requires him to keep numbers and have a lot of social interactions.
As he searched, he wondered if he should resort to buying illegally. But that worried him even more — he knows that street drugs are often counterfeit and contain fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid that can be deadly in small doses.
“It scared me a little bit,” he said.
Never miss a story again. Sign up today.