Out Of The Pipeline

Atomoxetine: A different approach to ADHD

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The agent should be used cautiously in patients with cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, as side effects include slight elevation of pulse and blood pressure. Atomoxetine also may exacerbate urinary retention or hesitation in some adults. The drug may impair sexual function; at least 7% of men in placebo-controlled trials experienced erectile disturbance, and 3% experienced impotence.7

In children and adolescents, gastrointestinal discomfort, asthenia, fatigue, mild appetite decreases, and slight weight loss were reported adverse effects.5 Nausea and vomiting were the most troublesome acute side effects in children, with most episodes lasting 1 to 2 days.5


Atomoxetine may help patients with ADHD who respond inadequately or do not respond to stimulants. Its lack of abuse potential suggests it may be useful in adults with comorbid substance use disorders. Atomoxetine also does not appear to exacerbate insomnia—a potential benefit for ADHD patients with poor sleep quality.

Given its pharmacologic profile, the agent will reduce the impact of comorbidities (such as anxiety and depression) common to adults with ADHD. Research is needed to determine its role in treating more complicated pathologies, such as ADHD with comorbid bipolar disorder.

Whereas some stimulants require multiple daily dosing, atomoxetine is administered once daily. This could save clinicians time by reducing the need for refills, out-of-visit prescribing, and monthly patient visits (our pediatric practice writes 20 to 40 stimulant refills per day)and enhance convenience for patients.

Related resources

  • Spencer T, Biederman J, Wilens T, et al. Effectiveness and tolerability of tomoxetine in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Am J Psychiatry 1998;155:693-5.

Drug Brand Names

  • Methylphenidate • Concerta, Ritalin


The author receives research/grant support from and is a consultant to and speaker for Eli Lilly and Co. He also receives research/grant support from Shire Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, and is a consultant to Abbott Laboratories, Merck and Co., Pfizer Inc., and Organon.


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