Tips for Handling the Medication Shortage

ADHD Medication Shortages: What to Know and Do

By Andrew Adesman, MD, and Anna Krevskaya, MD

Attention, October 2023

In recent years, many new stimulant medications have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of ADHD. These new formulations vary in their duration of benefit, and many offer new ways that the medication is administered or “delivered.” Although this expanded range of stimulant medication options has been a significant benefit for many families and individuals, challenges arise when people are unable to get the specific medication that they think is best for themselves or their child.

Perseverance, flexibility, and creativity are key to success in dealing with the ongoing shortage of various ADHD stimulant medications. Here are some helpful tips and strategies.

Continue reading ADHD Medication Shortages: What to Know and Do.

Tips on Handling the Medication Shortage

From What to Do When You Can’t Get the ADHD Medication You Want:

If a family’s local pharmacy does not have their ADHD medication of choice, they may consider contacting other local pharmacies. Many of the large retail pharmacy chains are able to check their computer system to see if any other nearby locations have the medication you want. If this strategy is not successful, you should contact several of the independently owned pharmacies near your home or work location. A third option is to contact the manufacturer of the medication you are seeking. In some cases, the manufacturer’s website for the medication may be able to provide you with information about availability; if not, you can call the manufacturer directly for help in finding the medication.

Consider priorities when choosing the right alternative medication

If the medication of choice is no longer available, families will likely need to consider trying a different medication. In these instances, consideration should be given to what are the priorities in selecting an alternative stimulant formulation—is it the medication’s means of administration, its duration of action, or its costs?

Additional considerations

Although generic medications are usually less expensive, this is not always the case. Insurance companies may negotiate a more financially advantageous arrangement with a particular drug manufacturer, and thus a brand name medication may indeed be cheaper than a generic formulation. The accompanying table also shows which formulations are available as generics.

  • In some instances, it may be helpful to use a medication in a manner that is off label—in a way not formally approved by the FDA. In some cases, this can be as simple as using a dose that has not been FDA-approved—such as using a 7.5mg dose when 5mg is too low and 10mg is too strong. In other instances, this can mean crushing a short-acting tablet or cutting a transdermal patch. Although these off-label uses of stimulants are not FDA approved, they are generally safe and effective. Nonetheless, you should discuss with your healthcare provider whenever you are considering using a medication in an off-label manner.
  • For many of the newest stimulant formulations, manufacturers offer patient savings coupons to reduce a patient’s out-of-pocket costs. These can generally be accessed online at the manufacturer’s website for that medication or from your healthcare provider. Pharmacists may also have information about available discounts.
  • Some insurance companies may require a patient’s healthcare provider to fill out a prior authorization approval form to explain and justify why a particular medication formulation is needed. It is often easiest to get approval for insurance coverage for a non-preferred ADHD medication if you have already tried one or more formulary formulations without success.
  • If you find yourself having to pay out of pocket for a medication, families may want to consider switching to a different pharmacy. The pharmacies associated with some discount retailers (such as Costco) often offer medication at a lower price than some chain or small retail pharmacies.



Major media articles featuring CHADD experts:

The ADHD medication shortage is getting worse. What went wrong? – NBC

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

“All of a sudden, parents were seeing their children have difficulties staying focused, and we were identifying more kids who were symptomatic and needed intervention,” Wiznitzer said. “The parents of my patients have been asking about ADHD more often.” Since the pandemic began, Wiznitzer said he’s been prescribing ADHD medication to more adults.

There’s a national Adderall shortage, and some parents are worried – Today

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist and co-chair of the Professional Advisory Board for CHADD, an ADHD advocacy organization, says Adderall shortages are not uncommon.

"The raw materials for stimulant medication are government regulated and supervised," Wiznitzer told TODAY Parents. "Drug companies have to request certain quantities of the raw materials every year and it has to be approved by the DEA. We've had other years in the past where, as we get towards this time of year — the end of October, November, December — companies don't have the raw material anymore and can't provide the product."

The ongoing, unnecessary Adderall shortage, explained—Vox

“People are raising the question, ‘Why is Adderall being put in the same category as the opiates?’” Dr. Max Wiznitzer, who advises the ADHD advocacy group CHADD and practices in the Cleveland area, told me. “It’s not where the science is. They’re so stuck on what it has been, they’re not necessarily asking themselves where the science is pointing now.”

Adderall users struggle amid ongoing medication shortage–CNN

Dr. David Goodman, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that for the past several months, his patients have had to wait several days to fill their prescriptions. Lately, they’re having to wait up to a week or two. Some were even told that pharmacies might not see new supplies for months.

A lack of access to Adderall, which must be taken daily, can have implications for careers, home lives and even safety, Goodman said.

“This can come down to the difference between stopping at the red light or running the red light because you got distracted,” he said.


CHADD’s Public Policy Committee Encourages ADHD Community Members to Ask Elected Representative to Seek an Answer to Medication Shortages

CHADD’s public policy committee is pursuing all appropriate channels to bring this to the attention of policymakers and manufacturers. Many of you have asked CHADD what you can do to help these efforts to end the medication shortage.

We have composed a short sample letter to help you share your frustrations with your representatives and senators in Congress. You can use it as written or fill in your own experiences and concerns about the shortage and send or email it to your elected officials in Congress. When elected officials receive many letters from their home states, they cannot ignore this collective voice, and they are more likely to act on the matter.

Go to Sample Letter