Atomoxetine (Strattera) for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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Atomoxetine (Strattera) for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
atomoxetineStrattera

How It Works

Atomoxetine (Strattera) strengthens the chemical signals between brain cells and also increases certain brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, to improve concentration. It is not a stimulant.

Why It Is Used

Atomoxetine is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, teens, and adults.

It is sometimes recommended instead of stimulant medicines, such as amphetamine (examples include Adderall XR) and methylphenidate (examples include Ritalin, Concerta, Biphentin) for people who have bothersome side effects from those medicines.

For example, about 10% to 35% of people with ADHD also have tics, such as spasms of the muscles of the face (facial tic), clearing the throat, sniffing, and excessive blinking. Stimulant medicines for ADHD may make tics worse. Research has found atomoxetine does not make tics worse.1

How Well It Works

Several studies have shown atomoxetine to effectively control the symptoms of ADHD in children and adults.2

Atomoxetine does not start working as quickly as stimulant medicines. Reports suggest that full effects are often not seen until the person has been taking atomoxetine regularly for at least 3 or 4 weeks.

Side Effects

Possible side effects include:

  • Decreased appetite.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Tiredness.
  • Mood swings.

Growth is sometimes slowed in children taking atomoxetine. But it is not known if this delay is permanent.

Advisories

  • Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued advisories on Strattera. They suggest that parents and other caregivers closely watch for warning signs of suicide in people of all ages taking this medicine. They do not recommend that people stop using this medicine.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory about atomoxetine and the risks of liver injury, orthostatic hypotension, and syncope. Call your doctor if you have nausea or belly pain. Also, call your doctor if you feel dizzy or light-headed or if your skin is yellowing.

It is important for parents to be honest with their child about the possible risks and benefits of the medicine. Talk to your child about whether he or she is having any suicidal thoughts. Tell your child to come to you if he or she has suicidal thoughts in the future.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Atomoxetine can be taken once or twice a day.

Atomoxetine may be an alternative for those people who have bothersome side effects from stimulants, such as nervousness, irritability, or tics.

Atomoxetine is more convenient than stimulant medicines because you can obtain prescription refills over the phone.

Unlike stimulant medicines, atomoxetine does not have the potential for abuse.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Allen AJ, et al. (2005). Atomoxetine treatment in children and adolescents with ADHD and comorbid tic disorders. Neurology, 65(12): 1941–1949.
  2. Greydanus DE, et al. (2003). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Interventions for a complex costly clinical conundrum. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 50(5): 1049–1092.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised June 10, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.