On October 12th, 2022, the United States Food and Drug Association (FDA) posted on their website that there was a shortage of “amphetamine mixed salts,” better known as Adderall or Adderall IR. Months later, many people are still struggling to get their prescriptions.
The shortage has many possible reasons, from manufacturing and supply chain issues to increased demand. The FDA drug shortage database currently lists ten companies with limited Adderall supplies. Some of the companies have smaller quantities of the drug available but with long wait times due to demand. The drug is entirely unavailable at other companies; US Pharma Windlas has a shortage that is not estimated to end until June.
Recently, the effects of the shortage on people who need Adderall have become clearer, with many speaking out about issues with getting their medication. CNN interviewed Rebekah Pitts (she/her), whose daughter Clara has ADHD. She told CNN that their local pharmacy could not fill her prescription and would not put her on a waitlist for the medication. “I felt really emotional about it in that first week or two,” she said, “like I had failed my child, even though it wasn’t my fault.”
In a statement from late February, FDA spokesperson James McKinney (he/him) said, “The FDA recognizes the potential impact that reduced availability of certain products may have on health care providers and patients and is working closely with numerous manufacturers and others in the supply chain to understand, mitigate and prevent or reduce the impact of intermittent or reduced availability of certain products.”
The Adderall shortage has been particularly difficult to correct in part because a main ingredient is amphetamine. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies amphetamine as a controlled substance. More restrictions are placed on Adderall production than some other medications with the goal of discouraging its use as an illicit substance.
Erin Fox (she/her), a pharmacist at the University of Utah and drug shortage expert, spoke with Vox on April 10th. She explained, “The DEA gives the companies a set amount of raw material ‘quota’ to manufacture these products, but we don’t know which company gets how much… Some companies say they’re short, but DEA says that they haven’t used it all, so lots of finger-pointing.”
A CDC study released in late March found that “the percentages of females aged 15–44 years and males aged 25–44 years with prescription stimulant fills [like Adderall] increased by more than 10% during 2020–2021.” Among potential causes, it listed an increasing trend in adult ADHD diagnoses and an expansion of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic that lowered barriers for prescriptions.