Atomoxetine in patients with ADHD: A clinical and pharmacological review of the onset, trajectory, duration of response and implications for patients

J Psychopharmacol. 2015 Dec;29(12):1221-30. doi: 10.1177/0269881115602489. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


This article reviews data providing new insight into the trajectory of response and maintenance of response of atomoxetine in the treatment of child and adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This nonsystematic review includes: onset of action and duration of effect, response rate, effect size, time to optimal response and norepinephrine transporter blockade biomarker data. Atomoxetine can have an onset of action within 1-2 weeks of starting treatment, but there is an incrementally increasing response for up to 24 weeks or longer. Responder rates and effect sizes are similar to methylphenidate. Upon treatment discontinuation, relapse rates are lower than expected. In adults, 50% maintain their response for at least 6 months after stopping atomoxetine, following 6 months of treatment. Single-dose atomoxetine can provide 24-hour efficacy, despite a 5-hour plasma half-life. Hypotheses can be generated relating to neuroadaptive changes, to explain these findings. Atomoxetine has a trajectory of response that is incremental over a long period of time, with a greater than expected maintenance of response. This has implications for physician atomoxetine dosing and efficacy assessment, patient education and outcomes, and for clinical trial design and assessment of comparative efficacy with stimulant medications.

Keywords: Atomoxetine; attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; clinical outcome; efficacy; maintenance; norepinephrine transporter blockade; pharmacology; responder rate; response; review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride / pharmacology*
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride / therapeutic use*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy*
  • Half-Life
  • Humans


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Atomoxetine Hydrochloride