WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — A nationwide shortage of Adderall and its generic versions is hitting Colorado patients and their pharmacies hard.
For weeks, Daryl Linley, a Wheat Ridge resident, has been rationing the medication he needs to treat his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) while he calls one pharmacy after the next to try to fill his prescription.
"I've had to call multiple pharmacies. And quite often they won't talk to me," Linley said. "It's like the feeling when you first wake up in the morning, and you can't quite think, except all day long for me without it. It really affects my life."
As a policy, Wheat Ridge Professional Pharmacy does not dispense Adderall to new patients, saving the limited supply for established clients. But people are still calling every day to find the drug.
"I've had seven calls today, and I just talked to someone. She says it's been three weeks since I've had my medication," said Jenna Eccles, the pharmacy manager at Wheat Ridge Professional Pharmacy. "What we're finding is these patients have no information of what's happening."
What's happening is a perfect storm:
Manufacturing — Seven of the nine companiesthat make Adderall have announced shortages, possibly tied to labor issues.
Supply — Because of the opioid crisis, wholesale drug suppliers face new limits on the amount of controlled substances they can send to pharmacies, which is having an impact, according to the Colorado Pharmacist Society.
Demand — After the pandemic rise of telehealth visits, there has been a dramatic increase in ADHD diagnoses and prescriptions.
"Unfortunately, this leads to the pharmacy shuffle. And that's not good for patients either. What we're seeing is if they can't get it at one pharmacy, they're being sent to another pharmacy," said Emily Zadvorny with the Colorado Pharmacist Society, who said pharmacists are bearing the brunt of anger from desperate patients. "There's not a quick and dirty solution. I don't recommend turning to the virtual [pharmacies] because that's actually fueling this problem."
Many of the drugmakers that have announced shortages did not reveal when the supply will return to normal.
But doctors at UCHealth say this medication can be critical for patients — especially children who have already fallen behind during the pandemic and need the medication to go to school.
"If they simply can't find a pharmacy that has any, that's when we'd recommend them having a talk with their physician who's primarily prescribing for their ADHD about other alternatives," said Dr. Andrew Sylvester, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at UCHealth. "And ideally, our recommendation would be to stay in the same stimulant family, at first."
Linley said he will keep calling pharmacies and counting his medication, uncertain about when the shortage will end.
"Make sure you have saved some medication to make phone calls for because just the ability to stay focused and make a phone call is actually really difficult," he said. "Quite often, I have my wife call because my wife [is] able to stay focused. That's the honest answer."