Generic Medications Used to Treat ADHD

Save money with these generic prescription options

Most commonly, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is diagnosed in children and this condition often persists through adolescence and later adulthood.  Children with ADHD fall into three categories:

  • Primarily hyperactive-impulsive
  • Primarily inattentive
  • A combination

Although some people with ADHD "outgrow" the disease, it's estimated that as many as 80 percent of people carry the condition through adulthood.

Adults with ADHD are by and large not hyperactive and instead inattentive. 

Several medications treat ADHD. The medications that are most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD are stimulants and include many brand-name drugs.  However, lower-cost generic alternatives may be more affortable—if they're not already required by your insurance provider. 

Common Medications

More than a dozen medications treat ADHD:

  • Adderall and Adderall XR (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Daytrana (methylphenidate)
  • Desoxyn (methamphetamine)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Focalin and Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Intuniv (guanfacine)
  • Metadate CD and Metadate ER (methylphenidate)
  • Methylin and Methylin ER (methylphenidate)
  • Ritalin, Ritalin LA and Ritalin SR (methylphenidate)
  • Quillivant XR (methylphenidate)
  • Strattera (atomoxetine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)

Of note, the XR, ER, and LR designations indicate extended-release preparations.

Furthermore, Ritalin SR is a controlled release form of Ritalin. Finally, all these drugs except Intuniv are stimulants. (Intuniv is an antiadrenergic medication which acts on the sympathetic nervous system to decrease blood pressure.  It is used to treat hypertension and ADHD.)

Of the medications listed above, only Intuniv, Quillivant XR, Strattera, and Vyvanse are brand names.

All other medications can be purchased as generics.

Cost Differences

Brand-name drugs are expensive. Generic medications are low-cost alternatives that work just as well as brand-name drugs and have been scrutinized and approved by the FDA, too. 

For example, as of June 2015, a 10-mg tablet of Focalin costs about $1.40. A 10-mg tablet of dexmethylphenidate, on the other hand, costs $0.63. Switching to such generic medications can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on ADHD treatment each year.

Furthermore, as compared with generic equivalents, it can cost several times more to purchase extended-release preparations. Although it's more convenient to take extended-release iterations because fewer doses are needed, you can save lots of money by switching to shorter-acting alternatives.

Payment Support

If you're having trouble paying for ADHD medications, immediately inform the prescribing physician and ask about generic alternatives. The physician can offer you options and alternatives that will lower the cost of ADHD medications. For example, CVS/Caremark—like many other large pharmacy retailers—offers a value formulary which can be prescribed from for less cost. Moreover, patient assistance programs are also available in many communities.

These programs subsidize the cost of treatment.

A Caution About Stimulants

The use of stimulants to treat adults with ADHD is poorly understood. Despite accounts of stimulants working in adults, concerns about efficacy and safety of stimulant use in this population cloud the picture.  Specifically, some research suggests that adults with ADHD who take stimulants are at increased risk for palpitations, anxiety, and increases in blood pressure.

Selected Sources

Ropper AH, Samuels MA, Klein JP. Chapter 28. Normal Development and Deviations in Development of the Nervous System. In: Ropper AH, Samuels MA, Klein JP. eds. Adams & Victor's Principles of Neurology, 10eSearight H, Shinabarger C. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In: Feldman MD, Christensen JF,

Satterfield JM. eds. Behavioral Medicine: A Guide for Clinical Practice, 4e. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014. 

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