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Local families, pharmacies, doctors struggle to track down ADHD medication for kids

As students returned to the classroom following holiday break, many families struggled to find the medicine that helps them focus. ADHD prescription shortages are a growing problem in Massachusetts and across the country.

“You’re so panicked because your son needs this medication,” Walpole mom Rebecca Brennan told Boston 25 news. She says her 9-year-old son Paddy’s ADHD medication makes a huge impact on his success in school.

“It helps so much with his concentration. So if he doesn’t have it, he’s going to be bouncing all over the place,” Brennan said. But she detailed the months-long struggle to fulfill his prescription. Brennan says at time, her regular pharmacy would tell her it could be weeks before they would have it available.

“I would have to call probably 6 or 7 pharmacies around the area,” she said. Brennan says she’s thankful that, in a busy time of short-staffing, her pharmacist often helps her identify other branches that may have some supply.

Like many local families, Brennan said she also had luck on social media, with other moms pointing her in the right direction.

“I’ve heard ‘It’s over at this CVS over here’… ‘Try this one over here’… so I think parents who know, know that they need the village,” she explained.

“This is a huge issue for families right now,” said Dr Elizabeth Harstad, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital. “In recent months it’s getting worse, in that initially the shortage seemed to be mostly with certain types of Adderall medicine. In recent months, it seems to extend to many other types of stimulant medicine as well.”

Relief from the shortage may not be coming soon. Prescription rates for the medicines are at record highs, up more than 45% in the U.S. over the last decade. This summer, the FDA and the DEA sent this letter to pharmaceutical companies, asking for them to step up manufacturing of the controlled substances, saying they could be producing a billion more doses.

This fall, lawmakers in Washington put pressure on drug companies to ramp up production. Some of the companies that make the drugs responded, by saying they’re trying to make it as fast as they can.

Dr.Harstad said her office received many calls from families over the holidays, looking for guidance when they couldn’t track down medication.

“It is really crucial that if children are benefiting from prescribed medication, that they’re able to get the medicine,” said Dr. Harstad. She says children’s behavior can spiral without treatment.

Dr. Harstad said parents like Rebecca Brennan are smart to call as many different pharmacies as possible to track down their child’s prescription. She recommends calling for your refill at the earliest date you can, to allow time to track down your medication. She says it’s also a good idea to look into setting-up refills by mail if you have insurance coverage for that service. She also recommends working with your provider and insurance to see if generic alternatives could work for your child.

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