AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — A national Adderall shortage continues to plague doctors, patients and pharmacies in Western New York.
Dr. Michael Hallett, a physiatrist at Suburban Psychiatric Associates, now has extremely long days due to the shortage. After a full day of seeing patients, the norm for him is to spend two more hours every day making phone calls looking for Adderall, a popular drug used to treat ADHD. About 10 percent of his patients can’t fill their prescriptions right now, so he calls around, seeking a pharmacy that can fill the prescription or at least gets some pills — even at a different dosage that will work about the same.
“If this continues, it’s going to get harder and harder if it doesn’t turn around,” Dr. Hallett said.
Dr. Hallett said about half of his patients have ADHD, which can cause patients to have trouble paying attention, be overly active or have impulsive behavior.
After the pandemic forced kids to stay at home, he started seeing more child patients. But he also sees more adults than ever before. With a bigger focus on mental health today, he said more and more people are admitting they need help.
“We get a lot of people who come in for other reasons like depression and anxiety, and when we talk to them and do a thorough evaluation, we find out, ‘Well you’re depressed and anxious because you have ADHD and you haven’t been treated,” he said. “‘Life has been hard, and you’ve been struggling your whole life, which leads to anxiety and depression.'”
So there is a bigger demand for medication to treat ADHD.
The majority of Dr. Hallett’s patients are on a stimulant, like Adderall. If Adderall runs out, he said the only other backup stimulant is the drug Ritalin. Right now, Ritalin is in stock in this area, but it’s not the same.
“I mean, they’re definitely different,” Dr. Hallett said. “I mean, there’s a chance it’s not going to work as well as the Adderall did; there may be more side effects than the Adderall did. So there’s no guarantee it’s going to work as well, or it’s going to be as tolerated, but it’s certainly going to be better than nothing.”
There are also non-stimulant drugs, but those don’t start working right away.
“And there’s probably more potential side effects to the non-simulant because it is changing brain chemistry,” he said. “You have to take it every day and it isn’t as natural to the body as the stimulant is.”
Most of his patients choose Adderall. But Dr. Hallett said not enough of it is being made across the country, and he blames the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“They tell the companies how much you can make in that year,” he said. “Last year, 20 million grams of Adderall could be made … manufactured. They didn’t have an increase for this year.”
In the meantime, Dr. Hallett will continue his long days, doing what he can to get much-needed medication for his patients.
Another thing to note, CBS News reports, recently online mental health companies are diagnosing ADHD and prescribing medication 100% online. One of those companies has been the focus of an ongoing CBS News investigation and was under investigation by the Department of Justice last year as well, for their prescribing practices.