CDC Warns of Increased ADHD Drug Shortages, Untreated Symptoms

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June 14, 2024 – The process of finding stimulant medications that treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder just got even more difficult for tens of thousands of people who rely on the drugs. 

On Thursday, two people who operated the California-based telehealth company Done Global were arrested, accused of a $100 million scheme that provided the stimulant drugs to people for no medical purpose, the Justice Department alleged

The move prompted the CDC to issue a nationwide alert to medical and public health professionals. The CDC warned that the move may prompt people to turn to the illegal drug market and use counterfeit pills that could contain dangerous substances like fentanyl. The CDC notice said that between 30,000 and 50,000 adults across all 50 states may be impacted by a disruption in care due to the legal action against Done Global. 

Stimulant medicines such as Adderall have been on a federal shortage list since 2022. This sometimes meant that people had to drive hours to find the drugs in stock at pharmacies.

Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it poses a high risk for abuse or addiction. During the pandemic, federal prescribing rules for controlled substances became more flexible, allowing the drugs to be prescribed by telemedicine.

“The defendants allegedly preyed on Americans and put profits over patients by exploiting telemedicine rules that facilitated access to medications during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health emergency, instead of properly addressing medical needs, the defendants allegedly made millions of dollars by pushing addictive medications. In many cases, Done Global prescribed ADHD medications when they were not medically necessary,” said Anne Milgram, administrator at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in a statement issued Friday. The statement described Done Global as “an online telehealth website that prescribed Adderall and other highly addictive medications to patients who bought a monthly subscription.”

The company offered a monthly membership for $79 per month, and its website stated that “medication for ADHD is only granted 30 days at a time.”

ADHD affects about 4% of adults and an estimated 10% of children. Symptoms can include difficulty finishing tasks or following instructions, often due to being easily distracted, as well as fidgeting, talking a lot, or acting impulsively. Prescriptions for ADHD medicines surged during the pandemic, particularly among young adults and women.

“Any diversion of Adderall and other prescription stimulant pills to persons who have no medical need only exacerbates this shortage and hurts any American with a legitimate medical need for these drugs,” Milgram said. “The DEA will continue to hold accountable anyone, including company executives, that uses telehealth platforms to put profit above patient safety.” 

The CDC urged medical providers to be on the lookout for overdose symptoms and also for people who have untreated ADHD. People with untreated ADHD are at heightened risk of social and emotional problems, drug or alcohol use disorders, suicide, and unintentional injuries such as those sue to motor vehicle crashes, the CDC warned.

The DEA advised that people involved with the allegedly illegal conduct of Done Global should call to report this conduct to the DEA hotline at 646-466-5159.