Amidst a nationwide shortage of ADHD medications in England, doctors have been advised not to prescribe these drugs to new patients. This crisis has raised concerns among charities, highlighting the profound impact on individuals dealing with ADHD.
The Department of Health and Social Care issued a national patient safety alert attributing the medication shortages to a combination of manufacturing problems and a surge in global demand. These shortages are expected to persist until the end of the year.
ADHD, characterized by difficulties in concentration and impulsive behavior, affects approximately 2.2 million people in England, but experts believe it is both under-diagnosed and under-treated. Recent data from April to June 2023 indicates a substantial rise in ADHD prescriptions, with 202,000 individuals in England receiving them, compared to 103,000 during the same period in 2018-19.
In response to the shortage, healthcare providers have been instructed not to initiate new patients on medications affected by the supply issues. These include methylphenidate prolonged-release capsules and tablets, lisdexamfetamine capsules, and guanfacine prolonged-release tablets. While some other ADHD products remain available, they cannot meet the increased demand.
The Department of Health and Social Care's alert states that supply disruptions are anticipated to be resolved between October and December 2023. In the meantime, healthcare professionals are advised to identify patients currently prescribed these affected medications, assess their remaining supply, and seek guidance from dispensing pharmacy services or specialist teams if their stocks are running low.
Henry Shelford, CEO and co-founder of ADHD UK, expressed deep concern about the situation, likening the sudden removal of medication to taking away a wheelchair from a person with a disability. Shelford criticized the lack of planning and support, stating that patients often wait years to see a medication team, and changing medications abruptly is not feasible.
The shortage also presents a setback for individuals newly diagnosed with ADHD, as they face extended delays in receiving treatment. Shelford emphasized that people with ADHD feel let down by the NHS.
This is not the first time ADHD medication shortages have occurred in 2023. A previous warning by the DHSC highlighted a scarcity of atomoxetine capsules, with resolution expected next month.
Dr. Andrew Hill, a senior visiting research fellow at the University of Liverpool, pointed out that the issue stems from the NHS relying on just a few foreign suppliers for key medicines, leaving it vulnerable to shortages when these suppliers encounter problems. He called for a new approach, citing the European Union's efforts to safeguard critical medicine supplies.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care acknowledged the supply issues, emphasising their collaboration with manufacturers to resolve the problems swiftly and ensure continuous access to ADHD medicines in the UK.