The efficacy of atomoxetine for the treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a comprehensive review of over a decade of clinical research

CNS Drugs. 2015 Feb;29(2):131-51. doi: 10.1007/s40263-014-0224-9.


Atomoxetine was first licensed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents in the US in 2002. The aim of this paper is to comprehensively review subsequent publications addressing the efficacy of atomoxetine in 6- to 18-year-olds with ADHD. We identified 125 eligible papers using a predefined search strategy. Overall, these papers demonstrate that atomoxetine is an effective treatment for the core ADHD symptoms (effect sizes 0.6-1.3, vs. placebo, at 6-18 weeks), and improves functional outcomes and quality of life, in various pediatric populations with ADHD (i.e., males/females, patients with co-morbidities, children/adolescents, and with/without prior exposure to other ADHD medications). Initial responses to atomoxetine may be apparent within 1 week of treatment, but can take longer (median 23 days in a 6-week study; n=72). Responses often build gradually over time, and may not be robust until after 3 months. A pooled analysis of six randomized placebo-controlled trials (n=618) indicated that responses at 4 weeks may predict response at 6-9 weeks, although another pooled analysis of open-label data (n=338) suggests that the probability of a robust response to atomoxetine [≥40% decrease in ADHD-Rating Scale (ADHD-RS) scores] may continue to increase beyond 6-9 weeks. Atomoxetine may demonstrate similar efficacy to methylphenidate, particularly immediate-release methylphenidate, although randomized controlled trials are generally limited by short durations (3-12 weeks). In conclusion, notwithstanding these positive findings, before initiating treatment with atomoxetine, it is important that the clinician sets appropriate expectations for the patient and their family with regard to the likelihood of a gradual response, which often builds over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Propylamines / administration & dosage*
  • Propylamines / pharmacokinetics
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Propylamines
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride