In yet another object lesson about the complexities of drug shortages, The New York Times takes a look at scarce ADHD medications. Anyone who's been following the ongoing drug-shortage mess knows that these meds--including such standbys as Ritalin and Adderall--have been running short for awhile, and that DEA quotas have taken at least part of the blame.
What the NYT points out is that DEA quotas may indeed be too low, given the growth in ADHD prescriptions. The agency only sets quotas once a year, based on the previous year's sales, which doesn't allow for much flexibility. But another problem is that each company's quota covers both branded and generic drugs. Companies that make both understandably have an incentive to turn out more of the branded versions, because they're more profitable.
Indeed, it appears as if it's the cheap generics that are most scarce. The DEA doesn't see that as a problem; the agency is focused on preventing abuse, not supplying the public with medications at a cheap price. The FDA has a different opinion, thanks to the hundreds of complaints it receives daily. "We have reached out to the DEA and told them that there are shortage issues," Valerie Jensen, associate director of the FDA's drug shortage program, told the Times. "But the quota issues are outside of our area of responsibility."