The City Paper staff first learned there was an Adderall shortage in town last year. At the time, the whole thing was apparently causing a near-freak-out among CofC students. We were skeptical at first, but then we discovered that there is a shortage ... or at least there was. Officially, the prescription medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is on the Food and Drug Administration's list of drug shortages. But one Charleston pharmacist says the situation is improving.
"It seems like it was kind of hit-or-miss for a while there," says pharmacist Brian Kosier of the George Street CVS. He first noticed the shortage in October, when the weekly supply frequently ran out before the next shipment came in. But around the turn of the New Year, he says, the stock had returned to normal.
Since Adderall and its generics have the potential for abuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration regulates how much pharmaceutical companies can dole out every year. The limit is based on an estimate of the country's legitimate need of the pill, so one of several parties could be at fault. The DEA could be underestimating the demand for Adderall, doctors could be over-prescribing the drug, and those with prescriptions could be sharing their stashes with those who do not have prescriptions. Alternately, DEA officials have suggested that companies like UK-based Shire, the maker of brand-name Adderall, have been artificially limiting the supply of the medicine to drive up prices. In December, the DEA insisted that its quota for 2011 was sufficient, but at the same time the government agency upped its quota for the month.
As of Jan. 12, the FDA lists the reason for the shortage of generic immediate-release tablets from the companies Sandoz and CorePharma as "increase in demand." For the generics offered by pharmaceutical company Teva, the reason is listed as "API supply issues" — that is, problems with the availability of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, mixed amphetamine salts.
Kosier says his store carries both Adderall, as well as the generics. At his store's location, there was often a shortage of the immediate-release versions of the drug, and he would alternate between ordering from Sandoz and Teva as their supply levels shifted. Toward the end of a week, when the drug went out of stock, he would see customers become frustrated as they walked out the door with unfilled prescriptions. He would suggest that they check with other pharmacies, but often they had no better luck there. "I think people were angry at first," Kosier says. "Then they called the pharmacy down the street, and they were like, 'It's everywhere.' "
Another frustration was the price. Kosier says that customers with a store discount card used to pay $25 for a 30-count prescription of Adderall. During the shortage, the price shot up to around $75 to $80 for the same amount of the drug. These days, the store doesn't run out of the drug anymore, but the price has yet to drop.