Methylphenidate Shortage in Canada

Hand with pen drawing the chemical formula of methylphenidateMarch 12, 2014

There has been a recent shortage of the short acting Methylphenidate medication in Canada. This is listed on the website (and you can visit that site to check if the shortage is still an issue).

Methylphenidate is a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD. It is the active ingredient in the following medications: Ritalin, Ritalin SR, Biphentin and Concerta. However, the only form of this medication which is impacted by the shortage is the short acting version. Specifically, the 10 mg tablets, and the 20 mg tablets.

This shortage does not impact the availability of the long acting versions of methylphenidate such as Biphentin and Concerta.

Although it’s generally recommended that the long acting medications (such as Concerta and Biphentin) should be used to treat ADHD, as they work better for individuals with ADHD, there are still occassions that doctors will use a short acting stimulant medication.

These could include:

  • Using a long acting methylphenidate medication in the morning and then taking a short acting in the evening when it has been a particularly long day (i.e. topping up the medication for night school)
  • When a teen sleeps in on the weekend and gets up too late to take a long acting medication, they may take a short acting mid-day on the weekend to have some stimulant treatment
  • There are some patients (in my experience this is very few) who don’t do as well with a long acting medication as they do with a short acting version

If you or your child is taking a short acting version of Methylphenidate, you may have a hard time refilling the prescription. The pharmacist will likely tell you that the product is ‘back ordered’. However, if the pharmacy still has stock on their shelves, then you should be able to fill the prescription.

Here’s what you can do if you are stuck and cannot refill your prescription for methylphenidate:

  1. Ask the pharmacist to call other pharmacies to see if they have stock on their shelves (i.e. they will be able to call other pharmacies in their ‘chain’ (such as Shopper’s Drug Mart) and if another pharmacy has stock, they may be able to get it for you)
  2. Phone other local pharmacies and see if they have stock on their shelves, and then take your prescription to that pharmacy (you would have to take an actual prescription, as pharmacies cannot transfer prescriptions for methylphenidate from one pharmacy to another).
  3. Check if your pharmacy can order in the 5 mg tablet of Methylphenidate. If they are able to, contact your doctor’s office and explain that you need the doctor to change the prescription to the 5 mg tablets because of the medication shortage.

If none of these strategies work, then be sure to see if you can take either of Biphentin, Concerta, or even Ritalin SR to see if they can help you. Alternatively, you may benefit from a trial of an amphetamine medication – such as Vyvanse, Adderall XR, or Dexedrine. That would be an issue you’ll have to discuss with your doctor.

Please share any experiences you’ve had – particularly if you have a strategy which could be helpful to others.


Dr. Kenny


  1. I just had the same problem with Dexedrine 5 mg tablets which I use in conjunction with long acting 10 mg Dexedrine. My regular pharmacy did not give me the 5 mg when I filled my prescription and did not explain for a week that they could not actually get it in as it was a manufacturing shortfall. After contacting several pharmacies I was able to get my medication (fortunately I had seen my doctor in the past week for my regular appointment and gotten a new prescription).

    So what is up with this? Is this a by product of the DEA stuff in the US?

    Also, having to go to several pharmacies to get my medication (I was diagnosed as an adult and been treated for over a decade) reminded me once again of the stigma associated with ADHD meds. I’m sure that medical marijuana users have less stigma attached to them (not to mention a more reliable supply).

  2. Yeah, it’s not showing up on DrugShortages as far as I can tell (went 30 pages deep), but 5mg Dexedrine IR is definitely in a shortage right now. I was told there’s currently no ETA from the Safeway pharmacy.

    About mid-May, on some forums I read, I saw someone post about not being able to fill their 5mg IR prescription. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I still had a month worth of pills, and name brand medication usually doesn’t stay back ordered for very long in my experience. Looks like I should’ve taken things more seriously.

    I was told that both the 10 and 15mg Spansules are available. Walk-in clinics in Vancouver don’t like to prescribe scheduled drugs, so I gotta wait until next week to see my family doctor to get a Spansule prescription. I’m not looking forward to stimulant withdrawal.

    I’m not so sure how the Spansule will work for me. SR stuff can wreak havoc on my digestive track as I adapt, which is an annoyance. And while my current dose is 15mg/day, it’s my understanding that the Spansule is supposed to be 7.5mg instant, 7.5mg extended. I’ve been taking mine as 5mg 3x per day. Officially my prescription is 10mg morning, 5mg afternoon, but to get around 12hs of effect, three doses has worked best. 10/5mg would give me 9-10hrs. Hopefully 7.5/7.5 will give a longer effect.

    The other thing I like about the IR… Dexedrine does help me be more sociable. If I take a fourth before going out, it’s no big deal to only take two the next day, especially since this will always be on a weekend. Using Dexedrine in this manner is a lot harder with SR medications.

  3. Hi there,

    My son (age 10) has been taking Vyvanse on and off for about 2 years. I say on and off as he does not require it on the weekend, holidays or summer vacation (he may. But we don’t notice). We do this as he is 71 lbs without meds and 66 with meds, a skinny kid who does not need to lose any weight but rather gain it! He seems more emotional and does not eat on the meds. He is not taking it now as we are more concerned about his weight an social skills than his school work. Smart kid….just cannot focus to start work (unless really interested) 🙂
    Does anyone know of any natural remedies that work?? I have heard Magnesium, zinc, B6 and fish oil are supposed to…looking for a supplement my son would actually take (had to empty vyvanse capsule into juice to take it).
    Tried Cal-Mag before bed…seems to help him fall asleep faster.


  4. i was wondering were i can het the ridalin methyphenidate 20mg my doctore retired so im left without i cant sleep im losing it

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