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Categories: 2012, August
by Ruth Hughes,
IT HAS BEEN A VERY LONG YEAR of dealing with medication
shortages across the country. The information you shared with us last
winter was often heartbreaking, as you described the incredible steps
you were forced to take to obtain medication for yourselves or your
children, the skyrocketing prices charged by some pharmacies, and the
awful consequences of not having medication.
CHADD worked hard to address the situation, and we are seeing some real
changes take place, both in resolving the immediate shortages and in
solving the problem long-term. We worked closely with legislators, peer
associations, government agencies, and pharmaceutical companies to get
to the causes and to address them.
The Drug Enforcement Agency appears to have played a key role in the
shortage. The DEA’s mission is to ensure that stimulant
medications are not abused or misused. Every year DEA sets a quota for
each pharmaceutical company, and the company may not manufacture even a
single pill above this limit. If the quota does not accurately reflect
the legitimate need, or if medications are diverted for nonmedical use,
then a shortage can occur. Until now there has been no mechanism for a
shortage to be addressed once it occurs. That is about to change.
We addressed this very serious problem through the following
CHADD’s online survey in
January collected more than 5,500 responses. Forty-nine percent of the
respondents were having difficulty getting prescriptions filled, and
eighteen percent were forced to change to a new medication. Your
participation in the survey gave us more information on the shortage
than anyone else in the country.
CHADD and the American Academy of
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry formed a coalition of concerned
associations, which included several pharmacistl groups as well as the
American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association,
and a number of mental health and ADHD groups.
CHADD has been in regular communication
with all the major pharmaceutical companies to understand the obstacles
to manufacturing sufficient quantities of medication.
CHADD leadership has met with
staff for every key committee in both the US House of Representatives
and the Senate to make them aware of the seriousness of the problem.
CHADD leadership and members of the
coalition met with the staff of the Food and Drug Administration to
determine the FDA’s role.
CHADD worked with the media to get the
story out to the larger community. Literally hundreds of media outlets
covered the story.
And the coalition repeatedly asked for
a meeting with the Drug Enforcement Agency. We are still waiting.
Have we made a difference? You bet we have.
In January, the DEA increased the
quota for stimulant medications significantly. Because the
pharmaceutical companies need time to then manufacture the medications,
an increase in the availability of medications did not begin until this
The House Energy and Commerce
Health Subcommittee is investigating the role of the DEA in the shortage
and has not yet released a report.
Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa
has asked the General Accounting Office to investigate the DEA’s
role and report on their findings. While such a report can take up to a
year, the GAO is known for even-handed, nonpartisan reports and good
The Prescription Drug User
Fee Act of 2012 was approved by the House in June 2012 and
faces one last vote in the Senate before going to the President. It
instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to address
medication shortages within thirty days. When the shortage involves a
controlled medication like stimulants, the Secretary has the authority
to contact the Attorney General (the Secretary’s counterpart in
the Department of Justice, which includes the DEA) and ask that the
quota be increased. The Attorney General and the DEA must respond by
either taking action or responding with a clear rationale for not
increasing the quota. And all of this information must be made public.
This is the first time a mechanism has been put in place to address a
shortage before it becomes chronic.
In late June, we wanted to ascertain whether the crisis had truly
passed. So we set up another online survey to gauge whether people have
access to their medications. I’m pleased to report that only 688
people reported they were still having difficulty getting prescriptions
Thank you for participating in our surveys and for helping CHADD to make
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