Atomoxetine, a novel treatment for attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder

Pharmacotherapy. 2004 Aug;24(8):1020-36. doi: 10.1592/phco.24.11.1020.36146.


Atomoxetine is the first nonstimulant drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the only agent approved by the FDA for the treatment of ADHD in adults. Atomoxetine is a norepinephrine transport inhibitor that acts almost exclusively on the noradrenergic pathway. Its mechanism of action in the control and maintenance of ADHD symptoms is thought to be through the highly specific presynaptic inhibition of norepinephrine. Clinical trials to evaluate the short-term effects of atomoxetine in children and adults have shown that atomoxetine is effective in maintaining control of ADHD. Likewise, long-term trials have determined that atomoxetine is effective in preventing relapse of ADHD symptoms without an increase in adverse effects. A comparative trial of atomoxetine with methylphenidate in school-aged children indicated similar safety and efficacy without the abuse liability associated with some psychostimulants. The most commonly reported adverse effects in children and adolescents are dyspepsia, nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, and weight loss. The rates of adverse events in the trials were similar for both the once- and twice-daily dosing regimens. The discontinuation rate was 3.5% in patients treated with atomoxetine versus 1.4% for placebo and appeared to be dose dependent, wit a higher percentage of discontinuation at dosages greater than 1.5 mg/kg/day. In clinical trials involving adults, the emergence of clinically significant or intolerable adverse events was low. The most common adverse events in adults were dry mouth, insomnia, nausea, decreased appetite, constipation, urinary retention or difficulties with micturition, erectile disturbance, dysmenorrhea, dizziness, and decreased libido. Sexual dysfunction occurred in approximately 2% of patients treated with atomoxetine. Atomoxetine should be used with caution in patients who have hypertension or any significant cardiovascular disorder. Overall, atomoxetine therapy in patient with ADHD appears to be effective in controlling symptoms and maintaining remission, with the advantages being comparable efficacy with that of methylphenidate, a favorable safety profile, and non-controlled substance status. Additional long-term studies are needed to determine its continued efficacy for those who require lifelong treatment, and comparative trials against other stimulant and nonstimulant agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Area Under Curve
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / classification
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Propylamines* / adverse effects
  • Propylamines* / pharmacokinetics
  • Propylamines* / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Propylamines
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride