By Jeannine Virtue
The newest ADHD medication Strattera (atomoxetine) is expected to hit the pharmacy shelves this month to much ado. What separates Strattera (atomoxetine) from the rest of the ADHD medications pack is that Strattera (atomoxetine) is the first non-stimulant medication FDA-approved for Attention Deficit Disorder. Strattera (atomoxetine) is not a controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act, which translates to the convenience of phone-in refills and less prescription hassles at the pharmacy.
Strattera (atomoxetine) is an oral capsule prescribed in a once or twice daily dose, which also eliminates the need for school children to medicate during the school day. And, Strattera (atomoxetine) is the only ADHD medication FDA-approved for adults.
But before you knock on your doctor's door asking for a prescription, there are a few things you should know about this new ADHD medication. Although Strattera (atomoxetine) is a non-stimulant ADHD medication, it still poses many side effects consistent with the side effects of other ADHD medications - and a few new ones that adults might find less than pleasant.
Common Strattera (atomoxetine) Side Effects include (but not limited to):
- Problems sleeping/Insomnia
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Upset stomach
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Mood swings
- Ear infection
Sexual side effects (in adults studied):
- Decreased libido
- Ejaculatory problems
- Urination problems
- Painful menstrual periods
The following, though rare, have also been reported:
Strattera (atomoxetine) can cause potentially serious allergic reactions.
Strattera (atomoxetine) can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
Strattera (atomoxetine) can also worsen the conditions of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Strattera (atomoxetine) should not be taken at the same time as, or within two weeks of taking, a monoamine oxidase
(MAO) inhibitor. Patients with narrow angle glaucoma should not take Strattera (atomoxetine).
You should alert the prescribing physician of the following condition before beginning Strattera
- Current or past depression, psychosis or other mental conditions
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Epilepsy or seizure disorders
- Liver disease or kidney disease
- Pregnancy, nursing or plans to become pregnant
Strattera (atomoxetine) makers Eli Lilly and Company conducted six placebo-controlled studies in children, adolescents and adults for FDA submission. Early studies suggest that the potential of abuse is lower with Strattera (atomoxetine) and side effects may not be as pronounced as with other ADHD medications.
Two of the trials also tested Strattera's effectiveness against methylphenidate and stated that preliminary evidence indicates comparable effects between atomoxetine (Strattera) and methylphenidate (Ritalin). Researchers did, however, state that larger, double-blind studies are needed to better compare the drugs against each other.
We do expect Strattera (atomoxetine) to become one of the forerunners in ADHD medication, with millions of children on this new drug in a short amount of time. Although Strattera (atomoxetine) sounds like a good choice - as ADHD medications go - the Attention Deficit Disorder Help Center takes a wary position until further testing is completed and analyzed. It is important to note that this new ADHD medication is new, with the tests for effectiveness lasting between six and 10 weeks and the safety of this drug only tested for about one year.
The short-term studies showed that Strattera (atomoxetine) increased the heart rate and blood pressure in children. The long-term effects of increased heart rate and blood pressure are still unknown.
Children fell below their height and weight growth curves on the longer-term study and again, it is still unknown whether this will have an affect on adult height. Also of concern are the side effects to sexual functioning reported in adult and how that will affect children whose sexual organs are still developing. In all fairness, this side effect likely would not surface for Ritalin, Adderall or other ADHD medications since those are for children. Since Strattera (atomoxetine) will also be marketed as an adult prescription, clinical tests were done on adults, which then unearthed sexual side effects.
Our last concern deals with verbiage on the Strattera (atomoxetine) web site. The following is an excerpt from the www.strattera.com FAQ page; "15. Is there a cure for ADHD? Like other chronic disorders, ADHD is not curable. Some patients have a remission of the disease, and may lead productive adolescent and adult lives...."
Eli Lilly and Company knows better and we question why the web site classified Attention Deficit Disorder as a "disease," and one that people "have a remission" from. Attention Deficit Disorder is NOT a "disease." In fact, Attention Deficit Disorder was not even a "disorder" until 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association classified it as such. Furthermore, people do not "have a remission" from Attention Deficit Disorder, though many children with Attention Deficit Disorder lead productive adolescent and adult lives.