Young woman reading a medicine prescription on her smart phone while holding a pill bottle.
There is currently a shortage of some essential ADHD medications due to what the NHS has described as “excessive increases in demand”.
A national patient safety alert was issued, warning of a shortage in the supply of Methylphenidate, Lisdexamfetamine, and Guanfacine and while other ADHD products are available, they can’t meet this rise in demand.
Speaking to Sky News, Thorrun Govind, a pharmacist and health expert said that there needs to be a change in the law to allow pharmacies to give out different doses to reach the amount that a patient is prescribed.
Additionally, doctors in England have been advised against prescribing ADHD drugs to new patients which is incredibly concerning given that there has been a twenty-fold increase in ADHD diagnoses.
People have taken to TikTok to discuss how the shortage is impacting their day-to-day life with one user saying, “I have realised the impact ADHD medication has on regulating my mood”. Before explaining that they have had mood swings, impulsive thoughts, anger, and irritability; emotions that they described as “torture”.
How the shortage of medication is affecting people with ADHD
HuffPost UK spoke exclusively with ADHD patients about how the shortage is impacting their lives.
We spoke with David, a 34 year old from Edinburgh. David is on prescription medication to help manage his symptoms but his current supply runs out this weekend.
David said, “because it’s a controlled drug, I feel like ADHD patients are falling between stools. No one is able to provide a solution. My GP told me that I had to get advice on alternatives from a private practice.”
“I’m fortunate that I’ve got a supportive partner as well as a supportive employer but I hate to think what the consequences are going to be for those that don’t have that support.”
Seeking alternative support from a private medical practice isn’t exactly accessible to many of the population, especially during a cost of living crisis.
This frustration was echoed by Shannon, 30. Shannon fortunately has enough medication to be able to ration it for a short while but this of course isn’t enough. She said, “I’m frustrated at the lack of action by the NHS to offer any actual guidance for people in this position other than ‘ration what you have’ it’s a bit like, and then what?”
While rationing may seem like a practical solution to a difficult problem, for people with ADHD, it only brings back the very symptoms that led to them being diagnosed in the first place.
Shannon said, ”Due to rationing what I have, I’m experiencing a myriad of symptoms on days where I don’t take it, from anxiety, forgetfulness to brain fog, frustration, constantly feeling like I’m forgetting something and forgetting what I was saying mid sentence”
Of course, as anybody who is on daily medication will tell you, if your medication routine is disordered, there aren’t really any good days. Shannon echoes this sentiment, telling us, “on my medicated days, I’m having trouble sleeping at night and feeling dehydrated (dry mouth and headaches) cause my tolerance is lower and I can’t do anything to change it”.
Perhaps knowing an end point would give some comfort to ADHD patients, as right now, it’s a case of hoping and as Shannon said, “The uncertainty of it all and when it’ll be resolved keeps me awake at night”.
There is a potential end in sight but it could change
In the alert issued to multiple care trusts and GP practices, The Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory Agency said, “at present, the supply disruptions are expected to resolve at various dates between October and December 2023”.
Additionally, doctors have been advised to not prescribe any more of the medications until the shortage is resolved and patients are advised to speak to community pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, or other dispensing to establish availability of supply.
If patients can’t source medication, they are advised to speak to their specialist team for management of symptoms.