Ritalin shortage leaves Seattle prescriptions unfilled

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by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 11, 2011 at 8:16 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

SEATTLE -- A nationwide shortage of drugs commonly used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy has left many people calling local pharmacies, looking to fill their prescriptions.

The FDA says it could be a month or more before supplies return to normal.

Leigh Fatzinger says it would be tough to run to his Seattle social media publishing company without his Ritalin.

"The social media business is one where the topic changes 10 to 15 times an hour," said Fatzinger, CEO of Nology Media. "As a person with ADHD if the medication is not there, it's hard for me to sort of recover from all the distractions I face on any given day."

But Fatzinger said he had problems trying to fill his prescriptions at his pharmacy this past week.

"They said, 'Sorry we're out,' he said, "'You might want to try a couple different pharmacies,' and after going to four, five pharmacies with my wife, we kind of gave up."

Pharmacist Beverly Schaefer said they've had several people calling each day asking to fill their prescriptions, but like many others, their inventories are dwindling.

"Calling around to many many pharmacies probably isn't going to yield some hidden supply of the drug," she said. "

On Sunday, the FDA announced shortages on Ritalin, Adderall and their generic counterparts, citing the federal Drug Enforcement Agency's caps on raw materials available to manufacture these drugs.

The DEA sometimes restricts ingredients in certain pills as a way to combat prescription drug abuse, according to the DEA's Office of Diversion Control, but manufacturers said that cuts into supply, especially when demand for a drug -- like Ritalin -- is high.

"There's less product to go around for a higher demand," said Schaefer. "We often have it on order, but if it's not here, we can't dispense it."

Adderall's manufacturer, Shire, said it expects increased product availability in May 2011, according to the FDA web site.

Teva, which supplies the generic version, said different doses should become more available between April 14 and April 29.

Ritalin, or methylphenidate HCl, has different manufacturers who cite different availabilities, including the expectation of "sporadic backorders for the next couple of months."

Until then, Fatzinger says he'll just adjust how he interacts with people and his ideas during the day, "especially in an environment where there are so many  distractions happening all day long," he said.

Seattle Children's Hospital said right now, their pharmacy does not have a shortage of ADHD drugs, but said it could still happen.

Pharmacists say rather than rationing pills, patients should contact their doctors to see if alternative treatments are available.

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