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A Deficit of Attention Deficit Disorder Drugs Sweeps The Country

MIAMI (CBS4) - People who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are suffering from another issue: a shortage of medicine that is used to treat their disorder.

This may be less of a medical issue and more of a political one. It's likely the result of a troubled partnership between companies trying to maximize their profits and the Drug Enforcement Agency trying to minimize abuse of the drugs.

Caught in the middle are the millions of people who rely on the pills to help them stay focused and calm, people such as Dane Swearingen.

The South Floridian works as a security officer for a mall and realized he had ADHD and did something about it. He got a prescription.

Swearingen takes Adderall and told CBS4's Cynthia Demos, "It gives me a lot more focus."

Recently, Swearingen, like many others, have been getting the same response from pharmacists across the country.  Swearingen said he constantly hears, 'Yeah, we don't have it and don't know when we're going to get it.'

The problem boils down to this: the FDA versus the DEA.

The FDA monitors the safety and supply of the drugs which are sold as generics and under brand names like Ritalin and Adderall.

The DEA sets up quotas, meaning how much is allowed to be made, so the drug isn't abused.

The FDA claims that the DEA is being too strict.

Then there's the argument about money. There's a particular shortage of the cheaper, generic version of the drugs, versus the high priced name brands. How the manufacturer divides its quota is left up to the company.

That's led to allegations that more of the expensive, brand name drugs are being made and less of the cheaper, generic drugs, so people have to spend more.

However, those who rely on the drugs can react very differently to apparently similar medicines, so an adequate supply of one drug does them no good, when their preferred medicine is unavailable. And prices can vary so much, that some patients say they cannot afford to switch.

Manufacturers claim there is no shortage problem.  Even though there were 51.5-million prescriptions for ADHD drugs written last year, and an 83% increase from just four years earlier, they believe they are keeping up with demand.

Dr. Daniel Bober who treated Dane Swearingen, says he doesn't see it that way.

"I've had multiple people tell me, they have problems obtaining these drugs," said Bober.

The FDA has put these drugs on the official "shortage" list.

Dr. Bober said people are being forced to go from pharmacy to pharmacy, until they can find the drug somewhere, or pay a much high price for the name brand drug. That is, if they can find it.

People like Dane say the government agencies controlling this issue are not striking a good chord with him or the millions of others affected and that something needs to be done.  Swearningen said, "stop toying with other people's lives."

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