Are brand-name and generic ADHD medications the same?

Brand-name vs. generic ADHD medications: Learn about FDA rules and get insights from an expert so you can make informed choices.

Q. I thought my child’s ADHD prescription was for a brand-name medication. But the pharmacy filled it with a generic. Is the generic version the same as the brand-name version?

A. This is a great question — and one that comes up a lot for parents of kids with ADHD. For the most part, generics are close enough to the brand-name version that people don’t notice any difference. But some people are sensitive to even slight changes.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that nearly 80 percent of all prescriptions are filled with generics. These medications are usually less expensive than brand-name ones. For ADHD medications, which usually need to be filled monthly, the savings can add up.

The FDA and generic medications

The FDA requires that generics be similar to brand-name drugs in several ways. They must have the same active ingredients, strength, dose form, and way that they’re taken.

They also must be “bioequivalent” to the brand name. That means that the active ingredient is delivered at the same rate and extent of absorption within the body.

Still, similar doesn’t always mean 100 percent the same. There may be slight differences between some generics and the brand-name versions of ADHD drugs.

In my experience, many patients do well with generic medications. But there are some situations where that may not be the case.

For example, the FDA has raised concerns about some of the generic versions of Concerta. They say that some of the manufacturers haven’t shown that their products are as effective as the brand-name drug. This is because the generic versions don’t use the same time-release system.

Why generic ADHD medications might not work the same

Often pharmacies switch from one brand of a generic to another without notifying the patient. Some users may respond well to one brand of generic. But another generic for the same drug may not work as well for them.

It’s hard to predict who will or won’t be affected by the difference between drugs. If your child doesn’t respond well to the generic, the medication may need to be fine-tuned or replaced altogether.

If you have any concerns about your child’s medication, talk to your child’s prescriber. Together you can find the best way to proceed.

More resources

Do you have other questions about ADHD drugs? Explore our ADHD medication guide for answers. Also, learn about ADHD medication rebound and what you can do to reduce this side effect.

Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.


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