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FOCUS: ADHD patients turn to black market amid medication shortages

FOCUS: ADHD patients turn to black market amid medication shortages

Thursday 01 February 2024

FOCUS: ADHD patients turn to black market amid medication shortages

Thursday 01 February 2024


Some local ADHD patients have turned to online black markets to obtain much-needed medication as global shortages and hospital pharmacy queues make it increasingly difficult to access treatment, Express has learned.

To address the global shortage of ADHD medications, the Health Department confirmed that that it had been issuing patients with only one month's worth of medication at a time – instead of the normal six-week dose.

But, more concerningly for some patients, the Department also explained that initiating new treatment with certain medications would not be possible until such shortages were resolved – something which has caused great anxiety and a desire to turn to the darker corners of the internet for help.

"It is very lonely and very isolating"

Lucy* who was diagnosed with ADHD in September after being on the waiting list for two-and-a-half years spoke about being denied medication due to the shortage.

"The current supply is being reserved for those who are already taking it, which is really disheartening for those who have been recently diagnosed," she said.

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Pictured: "There has been absolutely no support available after being diagnosed."

Although the Health Department said that they "receive regular updates about the situation", Lucy said these updates have not been shared with the patients.

"I have no idea when the medication will become available, and there has been no communication," she explained.

"I felt so great for a couple of weeks after I was diagnosed because it was validating and explained a lot... but there has been absolutely no support available after being diagnosed.

"It is very lonely and very isolating and makes you feel like you don't matter."

“Let down by the system"

Rachel Tippett, who runs the not-for-profit support group ADHD Jersey has said that these changes have increased the challenges for those with the condition.

“It is a problem on top of another problem,” she said.

“They are being let down by the system again and again.”

Rachel explained that patients now need to collect their medication from the hospital pharmacy monthly instead of six-weekly due to the shortages.

However, this is often difficult as the pharmacy is only open on weekdays from 9:00 to 17:00.

Rachel explained that the lunchtime rush and long queues are particularly problematic for patients with ADHD who often struggle with patience or have a hard time standing in lines for extended periods.

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Pictured: The queue at the Hospital pharmacy at 15:00 on a Friday in November. 

When the Health Department reduced the Hospital pharmacy's opening hours in September, they reassured islanders that the change in would have “very little impact on the public”.

However, Rachel feels this is not the case for ADHD patients.

She said that the fact the pharmacy is closed at the weekend is "not accessible for people with ADHD, especially if they are trying to hold down a job".

Rachel explained that measures implemented to mitigate the impact of reduced opening hours – such as a new prescription drop-off box – have not been effective for ADHD patients.

This is because ADHD prescriptions are sent straight from mental health services to the pharmacy, Rachel explained, which eliminates the need for patients to physically drop-off their prescriptions.

When asked if anything was being done to make the processes of collecting medication more accommodating for those with ADHD, the Government declined to comment.

A lack of communication

Rachel explained that patients are also being advised to inform mental health services to send their prescription to the hospital a week before their medication runs out due to the shortages.

She said this can be a challenge for ADHD patients, who might struggle with time management and forgetfulness.

The need for more frequent pick-ups and the fact that the hospital only keeps prescriptions for a limited period add to the difficulty, said Rachel.

When asked if anything was being done to improve communication with patients, the Government declined to comment. 

"Dangerous" black markets

Rachel said she was aware of cases where these medication shortages and accessibility issues had driven islanders to buy their medication on online black markets.

"This can be dangerous, particularly for those taking other medications like antidepressants or anxiety drugs," she said. 

The NHS has warned that any medicine from unregistered websites could be dangerous to your health because it might be out of date, diluted or fake, or may not be suitable for you.

The States of Jersey Police confirmed to Express that work previous drug seizures and investigations have included controlled prescription drugs.

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Pictured: An online black market is an anonymous internet platform where illegal goods or services are bought and sold outside of traditional legal channels.

Deputy Catherine Curtis – Chair of the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel – said she was aware of some of the challenges for ADHD patients and that her panel would be keeping an eye on this.

"We are told that the [CYPES] Department has been working to create a shared prescribing scheme with GPs to take over regular prescriptions of ADHD medication," she said.

"This would both free up CAMHS clinicians for diagnostic work and make it easier for people to collect their medication.

"The department has stated they expect to complete this work during quarter 1 of 2024.

"The panel will be able to follow this up with the new Minister."

She added that the shortages are a "worldwide problem" which is expected to ease by April 2024.

SUPPORT...

Rachel's not-for-profit support group, ADHD Jersey, aims to raise awareness of different types of ADHD and how they can present.

The group offers support to those suffering from the condition.

Those who are awaiting a diagnosis or unable to access treatment can receive support by contacting the Facebook page HERE

ADHD Jersey also holds monthly meetings at the Cheshire Homes Community Centre, Green Street.

Rachel also launched a petition to reduce waiting lists for diagnostic assessments

*Name changed to protect anonymity.

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