DETROIT (WWJ) – Drug shortages are not very common, but they do happen. Right now, the active ingredient in prescriptions like Ritalin and Adderall, drugs designed to key down hyperactivity, is out all across the country.
Dr. Gary Trock, Director of Pediatric Neurology at Beaumont Hospital, spoke to WWJ’s Kathryn Larson about coping with the shortage problem.
“I used to get frustrated and angry, but like many, I have adapted to the system,” Dr. Trock said. “You can’t tell ahead of time, if one child does better with brand A versus brand B versus brand C. So, a person may have a brand that they’ve done the best with, but if they just can’t get that or insurance wont cover it or stops covering it, we could usually do almost as well with something else, but it may not be exactly what they prefer.”
Since doctors are having to deal with about two patients per week affected by the shortage, they are forced to develop an alternative treatment plan.
“We find something that either works better or that works just as well and is much less expensive, both for the patient in terms of their co pay and their insurance company,” Dr. Trock said.
Dr. Trock said while he used to belive the generic forms of the drugs were a poor substitute, they have come a long way – and sometimes work even better.
“We have had to do some juggling but in almost, really every case, we can find a medication that is just as helpful. So no one is really left in a lurch, but it may not be their preferred medicine,” Dr. Trock said.
The good news is a child currently on these drugs won’t go through withdrawal as they change medicines, but something else could happen.
“The problem is recurrence of symptoms,” Dr. Trock said. “Some children just have a difficult time, or young adults too, either functioning at school, functioning at work, functioning in their social activities without medication.”
And it’s not just Ritalin or Adderall that is running out. Some generic medicines are feeling the shortage as well.
“For example, a very popular, very safe and inexpensive medication for migraines,” Dr. Trock said. “And all of a sudden they’ve just stopped, and its generic, they’ve just stopped making that medication and I can’t figure out why that is.”
The shortage is most likely due to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) regulation of the active ingredients in the hyperactivity-reducing drugs. The DEA regulates the active ingredients as controlled substances, due to the drug’s potential for abuse.
The DEA estimates the ingredient needs and releases them as necessary. It is often a difficult variable to measure, as the demand for the drug is based on diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which have steadily increased over the past few years.