What is Atomoxetine?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2018
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Atomoxetine, which is known by the brand name Strattera®, is a drug most used in the treatment of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is unlike many drugs that are also used for this condition because it is not a stimulant, such as those present in Ritalin® or Adderall®. Instead its action is somewhat similar to certain antidepressants, and it is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, which means it allows for more free norepinephrine or adrenalin in the body, which may help improved ADHD symptoms.

The name atomoxetine may ultimately become the generic name for the medication, but right now it’s sold under its brand name only in the US. There is no generic made atomoxetine in the US, though there are in other parts of the world. People can expect a generic in the US, in 2017, when Eli Lily’s patent expires. Until that point, most will pay a slightly higher price for the medication.

As with any medication, atomoxetine has some noted side effects, and some of these can be quite dangerous. Like most antidepressants, the US Food and Drug Administration now requires a black box warning on Strattera® because it can greatly increase the risk of suicidal behavior in teens, kids, and young adults. People first beginning this medication may be most at risk, and any expressions of suicide or significant depression need immediate attention. Overall, this side effect is still rare, but it requires vigilance.


Other side effects of atomoxetine are on par with antidepressant side effects and may include dry mouth, stomach upset, feeling tired, and sleep disturbances. Some women taking the medication may note changes in menstrual cycle at first. For many people, these side effects are transient and go away as the body adjusts to the medication.

There are some more serious side effects including trouble urinating, yellowed skin, blurred vision, severe headaches, dark-colored urine, and symptoms of fever, chills, and aches, which are often called flu-like. People should notify their doctors right away if these occur. Not that many people have a true allergic response to atomoxetine, but if they do symptoms might include rash, swelling of throat or tongue, faintness or dizziness, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms like these are a medical emergency and need emergency care.

Even though atomoxetine can sometimes be taken by more people than can utilize the stimulant ADHD drugs, there are still contraindications. For instance, people should inform their prescribing physicians if they have conditions like high or low blood pressure, or glaucoma. Strattera® is usually not recommended if people are taking antidepressants of the SSRI (selected serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class because combined use may result in serotonin syndrome. Making sure a doctor is aware of all medical conditions and any drugs taken is a good way of avoiding potential interactions.



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