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Focalin XR for ADHD

ADHD Medication Basics


Updated May 28, 2014

Lately, parents and Pediatricians have had a lot of options when choosing medications to treat children with ADHD. In addition to short acting stimulants, they could choose among long acting stimulants, like Adderall XR, Vyvanse, Ritalin LA, Concerta, and Daytrana (the Ritalin patch), or they could use Strattera, Intuniv, or Kapvay, which are all non-stimulants.

However, when you consider that Daytrana, Ritalin LA, and Concerta are all long acting forms of methylphenidate or Ritalin, the number of choices seem much more limiting.

Fortunately, there is another stimulant that is related to Ritalin that can be used to treat ADHD. Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride) is a long acting form of Focalin and can be used to treat children, teens, and adults with ADHD. Like other once-a-day or extended release ADHD medications, Focalin XR is reported to last through the entire school day.

Since, like Ritalin LA, it uses the SODAS drug delivery system, Focalin XR is an extended release capsule that can be opened and sprinkled on food, which is helpful for kids who can't swallow pills.


The theory about the superiority of Focalin is that it is made of just one part of Ritalin, and leaves another part, which is inactive and may contribute to side effects, out. This is supposed to work because medicines are made of two isomers or parts and you really only need one of those parts for the medicine to work. Xopenex, one isomer of racemic (mixed) albuterol, which is used to treat asthma, is made the same way.

In addition to supposedly being more effective and having less side effects, making a medicine by taking away one isomer often allows you to use a lower dose of the medicine. And in fact, Focalin is often prescribed at half the dose that someone taking Ritalin might take.

Unfortunately, there haven't been any convincing research studies that show that Focalin is better or safer than Ritalin or Adderall. There has been a head to head study between Focalin and Ritalin, but it concluded that Focalin was 'as efficacious and safe' as Ritalin.1

The study mentioned above did show that Focalin could be used at half the dose of Ritalin and they felt that there was 'some suggestion of a slightly longer duration,' so hopefully Focalin XR will be shown to work a little longer than the current extended release forms of Ritalin.

Focalin XR

Focalin XR is now available in 8 strengths, including 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40mg capsules. The variety of dosages makes fine tuning a child's dose fairly easy.

Your pediatrician may have a voucher for a free trial of Focalin XR if you would like to try it. Focalin XR Savings Cards are also available online.


Focalin XR Prescribing Information Sheet. June 2012.

Wigal S - J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry - 01-NOV-2004; 43(11): 1406-14

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