Generic Versus Brand Name Medication For My ADHD: Does It Make a Difference?

Generic Medication Vs. Brand-Name Medication
Comparison of shiny brand-new medication versus older reliable medication.

Generic versions of medications are just as effective as their brand-name counterparts, and their affordability can make it easier for patients to stick with their treatment plan.

Albert Hernandez

August 13, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read

August 13, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read


We all have a budget that we need to stick to in order to live the lifestyle that we want. Because I see patients in different areas of the country, I understand that the cost of living might differ between El Paso and Albuquerque, or between Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Regardless of your location, though, you know that if you need to add a new expense, like a medication for your Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the medication needs to be both effective and affordable.

For most of my patients, I will recommend that they take the generic version of their stimulant medication for their ADD/ADHD over its name-brand counterpart.

The FDA requires that generic medications have the same active ingredient as their brand-name equivalent and that the active ingredient is released in the patient’s body in the same way as in the brand-name medication.

Although a generic version of an Adderall or Concerta tablet may look different than the brand name tab, they are still as safe and effective as their brand-name equivalents. They will also likely be much more affordable for patients.

Stimulants for ADD/ADHD

When my patients are diagnosed with adult ADD/ADHD, they are usually prescribed a stimulant medication. When a person has ADHD, the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) dopamine and/or norepinephrine may not be working correctly in their brain. When these brain chemicals aren’t sending messages effectively through the brain, patients can see distractedness, fidgeting, and other symptoms of ADHD. Stimulant medication such as Vyvanse, Adderall, or Concerta helps the brain utilize dopamine and/or norepinephrine better. When a person is on the most-beneficial dose of their medication, they see a decrease in their ADHD symptoms and better function at work, school, and home.

For clarity when discussing medication options, I usually refer to stimulant meds by brand name in these explanations. However, I almost never prescribe brand-name medications, opting for the generic time and time again. About 97% of Upper Valley Behavioral Health clients are taking the generic version of their stimulant (when a generic exists), and they are doing well. My patients who are taking the generic version of their stimulant medication feel that it is positively impacting their ADHD symptoms. However, about 2% of our clients require brand-name products because they “swear” it works. To me, I think this might just be a placebo effect; patients feel better because they are receiving a superior product in their minds. The FDA requires rigorous study to ensure that generic medications meet performance standards and thus are as effective as brand-name medications.

FDA Testing For Generic Medications

When new drugs are developed, they are patented for a certain number of years, meaning that no generic versions can be manufactured during that time. This patent process exists so that the company that developed the medication is the only one who can produce and distribute it during this time without direct competition, allowing the company to recoup the money it spent on researching and creating this new medication.

Once the patent for a specific medication runs out, companies are usually ready and eager to manufacture a generic version of that medication. Although research will have to be done to prove that the generic medication is as good as the brand-name medication, the company that manufactures the generic won’t have to spend money on the initial studies or the advertising that the original manufacturer did. Therefore, the generic medication can be sold more inexpensively, saving consumers and insurance companies money. Meds may look different, but the efficacy is the same. According to the FDA,

"To obtain FDA approval, generic drug makers must prove that their product performs in the same way and is as safe and effective as the brand-name drug."

So, once a generic medication that has passed the testing is on the market, you can feel comfortable knowing that it is just as good as the original brand-name version.

Your insurance company is a business, and they want to pay the least amount of money that they have to for your medication. Therefore, if a generic version of your stimulant medication is available, they will usually only cover the generic. Adderall XR and Concerta ER have generic equivalents available. Vyvanse still doesn’t have a generic available yet, so the majority of commercial health plans will cover it typically only after a patient has failed a trial period of a generic formulation of Adderall XR or Concerta ER. A prior authorization may need to be completed to obtain insurance coverage for Vyvanse.

ADHD Medications Only Work If You Take Them

It’s crucial to take your Adderall, Vyvanse, or Concerta at the dose and at the time that it works best for you. For clients that think they “need” the brand-name version of their medication, I would caution them to consider the cost. If your insurance won’t cover your brand-name stimulant medication, you could be looking at a hefty monthly price tag. For example, GoodRx recently showed these monthly costs for commonly-prescribed doses of stimulant medications: out of pocket, Adderall XR is $235/month and Concerta is $389/month.

Bag of money depicting the cost-savings of using generic medication.

Even if you start off thinking you can handle a large monthly charge, many patients find it hard to adhere to their medication regimen when they have to foot this big bill. To help you stay on track with your treatment, it makes sense to try to find a medication that your insurance will cover, be it a generic stimulant medication or a covered brand name like Vyvanse.

So, whether you choose to take a generic version of your stimulant medication, or you decide to take the brand-name medication, here’s the most important thing: you have to consistently take your medication to feel relief from your ADHD symptoms. Medications don’t cure my patients’ ADHD, but their medications do help them manage their symptoms and live their best life.

At Upper Valley Behavioral Health, we are honored to help patients along the journey of finding the best treatment for their adult ADHD. If you live in or near El Paso, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, or any of the other cities we serve, fill out our short application for treatment today. We will meet with you to assess your symptoms and help you find the best and most cost-effective medication for you.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not replace instructions from your licensed prescriber. Please consult your healthcare provider for guidance on your specific medication regimen.

Tags: adhd

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