Patients are frustrated with the lack of ADHD medication

A Denver woman drove two hours to get her ADHD medication that she couldn’t get anywhere because of a shortage.

COLORADO, USA People with ADHD say they struggle to get the medication they need year-round and are forced to drive hours in hopes of getting the prescriptions they need for their ADHD.

Often, patients leave empty-handed. People dealing with drug shortages want to see the supply and demand problem solved.

When you don’t have medication, you can really get caught in this downward spiral, says Jessica Urgo, who suffers from ADHD and lives in Denver.

In the decades he’s had ADHD, Urgo has never faced an issue taking his medication, until about a year ago. He went to pick up his Adderall from the pharmacy like before, only to leave empty-handed.

It’s like, OK that’s a little weird, but it’s like, it’s not the end of the world, Urgo said. The pharmacists at one point seemed to feel bad about it, where they would say I’m really sorry, you can try this, you can try that.

This year, that has been the norm.

Then it started to cycle where it wasn’t ready for a few days, and then it wouldn’t be ready for a week, Urgo said. They just shrugged their shoulders and said that this has already happened and we just don’t know.

Urgos wife also has ADHD. At some point, they became desperate.

We’ve been driving for two hours because it’s been three weeks since we got anything, Urgo said.

They ration what they have.

I have a big presentation today, so I really need it, and Saturday I’m going to a party with a lot of people and I don’t want to say too much talking or missing social cues, said Urgo. But I have a choice.

Urgo says medicine is only one piece of the puzzle.

You have to reach it from all the different angels, says Urgo. You need therapy, and are willing to do it yourself, and you need drugs. And without those three pieces, it can be difficult.

Justin Vandenberg is the manager of pharmacy business services at Denver Health.

It’s scary, in the earlier years I worked in the retail sector, and seeing patients look in their face and say Sorry we’re gone, I don’t know when we’re going to come in, and having that uncertainty really made leaving them in a bind, Vandenberg said.

Vandenberg said the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, recognizes Adderall as a controlled substance.

It is in the same category as fentanyl oxycodone. It’s put in more checks and balances and one of them is that the DEA sets an annual quota of how much can be done, and that looks at past trends from previous years, Vandenberg said. And what it boils down to is a supply and demand issue. We have more people being diagnosed with ADHD, and the number is increasing. However, you look at these past trends for how much can be done, and it doesn’t match that.

Vandenberg said people need to take exactly what they are prescribed.

Let’s say they’re at five milligrams, but we have ten milligrams, we just can’t move that because of the prescription classification, Vandenberg said. But we can call that doctor, and they can get a new prescription for ten, and cut that in half. It’s about trying to be more creative to help that patient.

Vandenberg said there is work going on behind the scenes to help people.

At the congressional level, there are discussions going on about other drug shortages, so I hope there are enough people speaking up that there will be some changes, Vandenberg said. Now what that change requires, that must be determined.

Urgo wants to see the problem solved. I’m told I’m very smart, I know I’m smart, but it’s debilitating to not be able to do the things you want to do, Urgo said.

Urgo hopes that other people fighting the same battle will give themselves a little grace.

You just have to be kinder, and kinder to yourself, and you have to be a good advocate for yourself, Urgo said.

Having the patient talk to their pharmacist and provider, and having an open conversation, says Vandenberg. That’s really what, I can speak for myself, drives that passion and wanting to go that next day and that next day, is when you see these stories. One, it breaks your heart, but when you can bring that back and put a smile on patients’ faces, that’s really why I’m here.

If I could take my medicine every day, I would be happier, I could do more, Urgo said.

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