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Counterfeiters Exploit Shortage To Market Fake Adderall Pills

If the label of ingredients on the Adderall pack says "singel entity," that's a tip-off for trouble.
If the label of ingredients on the Adderall pack says "singel entity," that's a tip-off for trouble.

A shortage of Adderall began last year, sending millions of people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy on perpetual wild goose chases to find drugstores with the pills they need to stay alert and focused.

So it's not surprising that Adderall counterfeiters have seized a big marketing opportunity. What is surprising is their clumsiness.

The Food and Drug Administration says fake Adderall pills are easy to spot. They're white instead of peachy-pink. They're smooth, with none of the markings of the real 30-milligram tablets — the highest dose. They may come in blister packs, while real Adderall is sold only in 100-count bottles.

And the packaging of the counterfeit pills is riddled with typos and misspellings — "aspartrte" instead of "aspartate," and "singel" instead of "single."

If there's still any doubt, the fake packaging has "NDS" instead of "NDC," an abbreviation for National Drug Code. The correct NDC code, by the way, is 0555-0768-02, which must be on every bottle of 30-mg Adderall.

FDA scientists have found that the counterfeit drug contains none of the four active ingredients of the real thing. Instead, it contains two painkillers — acetaminophen and tramadol — which have no effect on ADHD or narcolepsy.

"The counterfeit versions of Adderall should be considered as unsafe, ineffective and potentially harmful," the FDA says.

Not to mention cruel. But then, you can't expect counterfeiters to care about the suffering (or pocketbooks) of the people they're out to swindle.

The FDA encourages consumers who think they've received fake Adderall to contact the agency's Office of Criminal Investigations at 800-551-3989 or www.fda.gov/OCI.

There's no telling when supplies of real Adderall will be back to normal. Its maker, Teva Pharmaceuticals, "continues to release product as it becomes available," the FDA says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.