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ADHD Drugs: Summary of Recommendations

The drugs usually prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are generally effective and safe. Most children and teenagers—60 percent to 80 percent—who take them become less hyperactive and impulsive, are better able to focus, and are less disruptive at home and school. However, there is no good evidence showing those benefits last for longer than two years.

Because diagnosis of the condition can be difficult, and a variety of medical and psychiatric disorders can cause symptoms that mimic ADHD, many children and teenagers taking these medicines might either not have ADHD or have only mild symptoms that do not require medication. Be sure to get a careful diagnosis from a physician or mental-health professional with expertise in ADHD and a second opinion if you have doubts.

Adults with ADHD also appear to benefit from taking medication. But far fewer studies have examined the effectiveness of the medicines in adult men and women.

Our analysis found that stimulant medications, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin),
might be slightly more effective than non-stimulant medications also used to treat ADHD, which include Intuniv, Kapvay, and Strattera. Our findings indicates that none of the stimulants are clearly more effective than any other. Each raises different safety issues, however, and you should discuss them with your doctor. Dosing convenience (such as taking one pill a day instead of two or more; oral solutions for those who have difficulty swallowing tablets; or the use of a skin patch) and the period of time that a medicine is active in your body are critical elements of ADHD treatment.

  Taking into account the evidence for effectiveness, safety, dosing convenience, duration of action, and cost, we have chosen the following as Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs to treat ADHD:
  • Generic methylphenidate tablets
  • Generic methylphenidate sustained-release tablets or capsules

Methylphenidate has a long track record that shows it is generally safe and effective. The monthly cost ranges from $15 to $196, depending on strength.

As this report is being finalized, there's an ongoing shortage of generic methylphenidate due to manufacturing problems. If you’re unable to get a prescription filled, ask your doctor or pharmacist about obtaining the drug from a different part of the country. That might be easier at large chain pharmacies, such as at Target or Walgreens.

ADHD Drugs: Drug Comparison
CR Best Buy Generic Name and Dose1 Brand Name Drug is a Generic2 Frequency of Use Per Day3 Average Monthly Cost4 Compare Prices
  Amphetamine mixture 5 mg tablet Adderall No Two $303
  Amphetamine mixture 10 mg tablet Adderall No Two $294
  Amphetamine mixture 15 mg tablet Adderall No Two $285
  Amphetamine mixture 20 mg tablet Adderall No Two $287
  Amphetamine mixture 30 mg tablet Adderall No Two $298
  Amphetamine mixture 5 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $96
  Amphetamine mixture 7.5 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $95
  Amphetamine mixture 10 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $84
  Amphetamine mixture 12.5 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $99
  Amphetamine mixture 15 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $94
  Amphetamine mixture 20 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $88
  Amphetamine mixture 30 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $87
  Amphetamine mixture 5 mg continuous-delivery capsule Adderall XR No One $291
  Amphetamine mixture 5 mg continuous-delivery capsule Generic Yes One $181
  Amphetamine mixture 10 mg continuous-delivery capsule Adderall XR No One $284
  Amphetamine mixture 10 mg continuous-delivery capsule Generic Yes One $184
  Amphetamine mixture 15 mg continuous-delivery capsule Adderall XR No One $276
  Amphetamine mixture 15 mg continuous-delivery capsule Generic Yes One $180
  Amphetamine mixture 20 mg continuous-delivery capsule Adderall XR No One $265
  Amphetamine mixture 20 mg continuous-delivery capsule Generic Yes One $180
  Amphetamine mixture 25 mg continuous-delivery capsule Adderall XR No One $278
  Amphetamine mixture 25 mg continuous-delivery capsule Generic Yes One $180
  Amphetamine mixture 30 mg continuous-delivery capsule Adderall XR No One $267
  Amphetamine mixture 30 mg continuous-delivery capsule Generic Yes One $177
  Atomoxetine 10 mg capsule Strattera No One $218
  Atomoxetine 18 mg capsule Strattera No One $218
  Atomoxetine 25 mg capsule Strattera No One $223
  Atomoxetine 40 mg capsule Strattera No One $233
  Atomoxetine 60 mg capsule Strattera No One $235
  Atomoxetine 80 mg capsule Strattera No One $271
  Atomoxetine 100 mg capsule Strattera No One $278
  Clonidine 0.1 mg sustained-release tablet Kapvay No Two $167
  Dextroamphetamine 5 mg/ 5 ml solution ProCentra BG Two $256
  Dextroamphetamine 5 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $24
  Dextroamphetamine 10 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $37
  Dextroamphetamine 5 mg sustained-release capsule Generic Yes One $86
  Dextroamphetamine 10 mg sustained-release capsule Dexedrine No One $229
  Dextroamphetamine 10 mg sustained-release capsule Generic Yes One $100
  Dextroamphetamine 15 mg sustained-release capsule Dexedrine No One $272
  Dextroamphetamine 15 mg sustained-release capsule Generic Yes One $115
  Dexmethylphenidate 2.5 mg tablet Focalin No Two $70
  Dexmethylphenidate 5 mg tablet Focalin No Two $83
  Dexmethylphenidate 10 mg tablet Focalin No Two $110
  Dexmethylphenidate 2.5 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $52
  Dexmethylphenidate 5 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $66
  Dexmethylphenidate 10 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $80
  Dexmethylphenidate 5 mg sustained-release capsule Focalin XR No One $225
  Dexmethylphenidate 10 mg sustained-release capsule Focalin XR No One $226
  Dexmethylphenidate 15 mg sustained-release capsule Focalin XR No One $223
  Dexmethylphenidate 20 mg sustained-release capsule Focalin XR No One $230
  Dexmethylphenidate 30 mg sustained-release capsule Focalin XR No One $234
  Guanfacine 1 mg sustained-release tablet Intuniv No One $220
  Guanfacine 2 mg sustained-release tablet Intuniv No One $218
  Guanfacine 3 mg sustained-release tablet Intuniv No One $227
  Guanfacine 4 mg sustained-release tablet Intuniv No One $226
  Lisdexamfetamine 20 mg capsule Vyvanse No One $201
  Lisdexamfetamine 30 mg capsule Vyvanse No One $199
  Lisdexamfetamine 40 mg capsule Vyvanse No One $199
  Lisdexamfetamine 50 mg capsule Vyvanse No One $202
  Lisdexamfetamine 60 mg capsule Vyvanse No One $200
  Lisdexamfetamine 70 mg capsule Vyvanse No One $201
  Methylphenidate 2.5 mg chewable tablet Methylin No Two $225
  Methylphenidate 5 mg chewable tablet Methylin No Two $335
  Methylphenidate 5 mg/5 ml solution Methylin No Two $317
  Methylphenidate 5 mg/5 ml solution Generic Yes Two $240
  Methylphenidate 5 mg tablet Methylin BG Two $23
  Methylphenidate 5 mg tablet Ritalin No Two $66
  Methylphenidate 5 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $18
  Methylphenidate 10 mg/5 ml solution Methylin No Two $549
  Methylphenidate 10 mg/5 ml solution Generic Yes Two $351
  Methylphenidate 10 mg tablet Methylin BG Two $29
  Methylphenidate 10 mg tablet Ritalin No Two $86
best buy Methylphenidate 10 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $15
  Methylphenidate 20 mg tablet Methylin BG Two $43
  Methylphenidate 20 mg tablet Ritalin No Two $115
best buy Methylphenidate 20 mg tablet Generic Yes Two $38
  Methylphenidate 10 mg chewable tablet Methylin No Two $475
  Methylphenidate 10 mg/9 hr patch/disc Daytrana No One $242
  Methylphenidate 10 mg sustained-release tablet Methylin ER BG One $34
best buy Methylphenidate 10 mg sustained-release tablet Generic Yes One $32
  Methylphenidate 10 mg sustained-release capsule Metadate CD No One $187
  Methylphenidate 10 mg sustained-release capsule Ritalin LA No One $179
  Methylphenidate 15 mg/9 hr patch/disc Daytrana No One $237
  Methylphenidate 18 mg sustained-release tablet Concerta No One $207
best buy Methylphenidate 18 mg sustained-release tablet Generic Yes One $172
  Methylphenidate 20 mg/9 hr patch/disc Daytrana No One $238
best buy Methylphenidate 20 mg extended-release tablet Generic (methylphenidate ER) Yes One $33
best buy Methylphenidate 20 mg sustained-release tablet Generic (methylphenidate SR) Yes One $34
  Methylphenidate 20 mg sustained-release tablet Metadate ER BG One $57
  Methylphenidate 20 mg sustained-release tablet Methylin ER BG One $38
  Methylphenidate 20 mg sustained-release tablet Ritalin SR No One $99
  Methylphenidate 20 mg sustained-release capsule Metadate CD No One $186
  Methylphenidate 20 mg sustained-release capsule Ritalin LA No One $187
  Methylphenidate 27 mg sustained-release tablet Concerta No One $215
best buy Methylphenidate 27 mg sustained-release tablet Generic Yes One $176
  Methylphenidate 30 mg/9 hr patch/disc Daytrana No One $239
  Methylphenidate 30 mg sustained-release capsule Metadate CD No One $188
best buy Methylphenidate 30 mg sustained-release capsule Generic Yes One $144
  Methylphenidate 30 mg sustained-release capsule Ritalin LA No One $183
  Methylphenidate 36 mg sustained-release tablet Concerta No One $217
best buy Methylphenidate 36 mg sustained-release tablet Generic Yes One $181
  Methylphenidate 40 mg sustained-release capsule Metadate CD No One $259
best buy Methylphenidate 40 mg sustained-release capsule Generic Yes One $145
  Methylphenidate 40 mg sustained-release capsule Ritalin LA No One $194
  Methylphenidate 50 mg sustained-release capsule Metadate CD No One $320
  Methylphenidate 54 mg sustained-release tablet Concerta No One $252
best buy Methylphenidate 54 mg sustained-release tablet Generic Yes One $197
  Methylphenidate 60 mg sustained-release capsule Metadate CD No One $317
1. Not all dose forms are listed. Higher doses, not generally or widely used in children, are not represented.

2. BG indicates that the drug is a "branded generic," a medicine that is generic but given a special name by its maker for marketing purposes.

3. As typically prescribed, but dosing varies with these drugs.

4. Monthly costs reflect national average retail prices for January 2012, rounded to the nearest dollar. Information derived by Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs from data provided by Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions, which is not involved in our analysis or recommendations.

5. Price is based on a low prescription volume of less than 20 prescriptions filled per month.