Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

ADD & ADHD Health Center

Font Size

ADHD Drug Shortages: Why?

Generic ADHD Drugs Hard to Find; DEA Raises Quotas in 2012
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 3, 2012 -- Many popular ADHD medications have been in short supply, particularly less-expensive generics.

That's no surprise to people who've gone from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to fill their child's prescription -- or to those who've had to pay high prices for brand-name drugs to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

The drugs in question are stimulants that calm and focus people with ADHD. The shortages have affected the two main classes of ADHD drugs: methylphenidates and amphetamines.

Some popular drugs, such as Novartis' Ritalin LA, are in short supply in some dosages but not in others. Other drugs, such as Teva's extended-release amphetamine, are on back order. Still others, such as Shire's Adderall XR and its two "authorized generics" are in good supply, according to the FDA and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

One reason for the shortage is extremely high demand for the drugs. While people with ADHD make up nearly all of the legitimate market, there's a huge demand for off-label and illicit use of stimulant drugs. Many companies say they simply can't keep up with this demand.

So why don't the companies simply make more ADHD drugs? One reason is that these drugs are controlled substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) decides how much of each controlled substance the U.S. legitimately needs -- and then sets quotas on how much manufacturers can produce.

Since 2007, the U.S. has been limited to 50,000 kilograms of methylphenidate. The amphetamine quota went up to 18,600 kilograms in 2009. Several drugmakers have publicly stated that these constraints have limited their ability to meet demand.

"The DEA's point of view is there is plenty of the active ingredient out there," DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno tells WebMD. "The DEA is tasked with making sure there is enough for legitimate need without making so much (that) it is diverted for illicit purposes. So we try to ascertain the legitimate medical need in America and make sure there is enough out there to meet it."

Last month, the DEA announced that the 2012 quota for methylphenidate will increase to 56,000 kilograms, and the quota for amphetamine will increase to 25,300 kilograms. It remains to be seen whether these increases will ease ADHD drug shortages.

Today on WebMD

Post it notes
Symptoms and treatments.
Close up of eye
What's zapping your focus?
man driving car
How to manage your impulses.
contemplating woman
Learn to stop procrastinating.
concentration killers
Woman taking a vitamin or supplement
ADHD and Substance Abuse
Reduce Side Effects ADHD Medications

boy eating egg
smiling man
ADHD in Marriage and Romantic Relationships
Adult man lying awake in bed