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Focalin vs Vyvanse

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For patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), certain medications that alter the concentration of compounds in the brain, called neurotransmitters, can help in managing symptoms and improving focus. Focalin and Vyvanse are two such drugs that are prescribed for ADHD. They each impact different neurotransmitters in the brain, but both have effects on attention span and impulse control in patients with ADHD. Focalin is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DRI), affecting levels of dopamine by blocking its reabsorption into the neurons. On the other hand, Vyvanse is classified as a prodrug of dextroamphetamine; it becomes active only after metabolic conversion in the body, primarily affecting levels of norepinephrine and dopamine.

Focalin vs Vyvanse Side By Side

Brand NameFocalinVyvanse
ContraindicationsShould not be taken if consuming or have recently consumed a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor. May exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or agitation.Should not be taken if consuming or have recently consumed a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor. May exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or agitation.
CostThe price of 30 tablets of Focalin XR (10 mg) averages around $300. Dexmethylphenidate HCL ER (generic version) costs between $.60 and $1.50 per day at typical doses.The price for 30 capsules of Vyvanse (70 mg) is approximately $380. Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate costs can vary and will likely remain more costly than dexmethylphenidate HCL ER due to absence of direct generic competition.
Generic NameDexmethylphenidateLisdexamfetamine
Most Serious Side EffectNew or worsening mental/mood changes (such as agitation, aggression, mood swings, depression, hallucinations), uncontrolled movements or vocal outbursts, circulation problems (like numbness and color change in the fingers or toes), chest pain, shortness of breath, fast/irregular heartbeat.Signs of an allergic reaction, symptoms related to heart conditions, mood changes, circulation problems, hallucinations, manic episodes, vision changes.
Severe Drug InteractionsMAO inhibitorsMAO inhibitors
Typical DoseOral doses range from 5-20 mg/day, split into two doses. Dosages should not exceed 40 mg/day.Treatment typically initiated at a dosage of 30 mg/day, can be increased to 50 mg/day or up to a maximum of 70 mg/day.

What is Focalin?

Dexmethylphenidate (the generic name for Focalin) is a drug of the psychostimulant class, which has been a significant step forward from previous classes of stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dexmethylphenidate was first approved by the FDA in 2001. Focalin works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain through blocking their reuptake, effectively keeping these neurotransmitters available for longer than usual. It is prescribed primarily for ADHD treatment. Meanwhile, Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate (generic name for Vyvanse), another stimulant medication released later in 2007, also treats ADHD but employs a different mechanism: it's an inactive prodrug activated only upon ingestion and metabolism within the body. Both drugs have similar side effects such as loss of appetite or weight, sleep problems and mood swings; however, some users report that Vyvanse provides more consistent symptom control throughout the day compared to Focalin.

What conditions is Focalin approved to treat?

Focalin and Vyvanse are both approved for the treatment of specific disorders related to attention deficit:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in patients aged 6 years and older, in the case of Focalin
  • ADHD as well as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) in adults, when it comes to Vyvanse

How does Focalin help with these illnesses?

Focalin helps to manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine available in the synapses of the brain. It does this by blocking their reuptake into neurons, allowing these neurotransmitters to be present for longer periods. Dopamine and norepinephrine are chemicals that act as messengers in the brain and throughout the body, playing crucial roles in focus, attention, impulse control, motivation, mental clarity among other things. People with ADHD typically have an imbalance or inefficient use of these neurotransmitters. Therefore, by enhancing dopamine and norepinephrine activity, Focalin can limit symptoms associated with ADHD and help patients better manage their condition.

What is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse is a brand name for lisdexamfetamine, a central nervous system stimulant that increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) in the brain by reducing their reabsorption. It also acts as an amphetamine prodrug, meaning it's inactive until metabolized within the body. Vyvanse was first approved by the FDA in 2007. As this medication doesn't belong to non-stimulant ADHD drugs, its action does not involve inhibiting serotonin reuptake but increasing neurotransmitter release.

The lack of action on serotonin means that its side-effect profile is different from non-stimulants, particularly because it can cause insomnia instead of sedation and may lead to weight loss rather than weight gain (common side effects with some other ADHD medications). These effects on dopamine and norepinephrine can be beneficial for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), especially in patients who do not respond well to non-stimulant ADHD drugs such as Focalin.

What conditions is Vyvanse approved to treat?

Vyvanse is approved for the treatment of:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in both children and adults
  • Binge eating disorder in adults.

This medication is a central nervous system stimulant that improves attention span, concentration, and impulse control while reducing hyperactive behaviors.

How does Vyvanse help with these illnesses?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays vital roles in the way our brain controls our movements and rewards feelings, among other things. For individuals diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), maintaining optimal dopamine levels can be challenging. This is where Vyvanse comes into play as it works by affecting chemicals in the nerves and brain contributing to impulse control and hyperactivity- hallmark traits of ADHD.

Vyvanse increases the levels of dopamine available in the brain, thereby alleviating some of the symptoms associated with ADHD such as difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, excessive activity or restlessness. Its action on norepinephrine may also contribute to its effectiveness against ADHD. Since it does not significantly affect serotonin levels like Focalin might do so, Vyvanse could be prescribed when a patient does not respond well to other stimulants or non-stimulant treatments for ADHD, or may even be combined with them.

How effective are both Focalin and Vyvanse?

Both dexmethylphenidate (Focalin) and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) are highly effective in the management of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and were approved by the FDA within a few years of each other. They act on different neurotransmitters, which may influence their use under certain circumstances. The effectiveness of Focalin and Vyvanse for alleviating ADHD symptoms was directly compared in a double-blind clinical trial; both drugs demonstrated similar efficacy with promising safety profiles.

A 2005 review showed that Focalin is effective from the first week of treatment, has a side effect profile comparable to many other ADHD medications, and is well tolerated even in pediatric populations. It has become one of the most commonly prescribed stimulant medications for ADHD due to its short half-life allowing for flexible dosing schedules. The optimal dose varies widely among individuals but often falls between 10-20 mg/day.

Similarly, a 2010 review indicated that Vyvanse appears more effective than placebo in treating ADHD symptoms and seems similar in efficacy to other common stimulants used for this condition. However, Vyvanse offers an advantage with its prodrug formulation: it needs to be metabolized into its active form inside the body which results in lower abuse potential as it cannot be effectively snorted or injected like many other stimulants can be. This unique pharmacology makes Vyvanse an attractive option for patients who have struggled with substance misuse issues or those seeking an extended-release option without multiple daily doses.

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At what dose is Focalin typically prescribed?

Oral doses of Focalin for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) range from 5-20 mg/day, split into two doses. However, studies have suggested that a starting dose of 5 mg/day can be effective in most cases. Children and adolescents may begin with this dosage as well. The dosage can be increased after several weeks if there is no response or insufficient response to the initial dose. It's important to note that dosages should not exceed 40 mg/day in any case.

On the other hand, Vyvanse is also used for treating ADHD and its oral dosage starts from 30-70 mg/day given once every morning; it has been observed that an initial daily dose of 30mg is adequate for most individuals. If necessary, the amount may be increased weekly by increments of 10 or 20mg until an optimal response is achieved, but under no circumstances should daily intake exceed a maximum limit of 70mg.

At what dose is Vyvanse typically prescribed?

Vyvanse treatment is typically initiated at a dosage of 30 mg/day. Depending on the individual's response and tolerability, the dose can be increased to 50 mg/day or even up to a maximum of 70 mg/day. This should be done by increasing in increments of 20 mg per week only if necessary. The medication is taken once daily, preferably in the morning to prevent insomnia. It's critical that patients understand not to exceed the prescribed dose as higher doses may lead to serious side effects including dependency issues, especially since it has a long duration of action lasting up to 14 hours after administration.

What are the most common side effects for Focalin?

Some common side effects of Focalin and Vyvanse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Somnolence (sleepiness/drowsiness)
  • Fatigue or general weakness
  • Tremor (unintentional trembling or shaking)
  • Loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss in some cases
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach pain, discomfort, or indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth -Decreased libido (sex drive) -Unusual sweating.

Additionally, they may cause mood swings or other emotional changes. If any of these symptoms persist after taking either medication, it's important to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Focalin?

When comparing Focalin to Vyvanse, it's important to know that both medications can cause serious side effects in rare cases. For Focalin, these might include:

  • New or worsening mental/mood changes (such as agitation, aggression, mood swings, depression, hallucinations)
  • Uncontrolled movements or vocal outbursts
  • Circulation problems (like numbness and color change in the fingers or toes)
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast/irregular heartbeat

For Vyvanse:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face/lips/tongue/throat
  • Symptoms related to circulation issues: numbness; pain; cold feeling in the hands or feet; unexplained wounds; skin color changes
  • Psychotic symptoms: hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real), new behavioral problems - aggression/hostility/paranoia
  • Heart-related symptoms: chest pain/chest tightness/unusual heartbeats Furthermore, both drugs may increase blood pressure and heart rate so regular monitoring is recommended.

If you experience any of these side effects with either medication, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Vyvanse?

While taking Vyvanse, you may experience several side effects including:

  • Dry mouth and increased thirst
  • Sleep problems such as insomnia
  • Nausea, stomach pain, decreased appetite which can lead to weight loss
  • Feelings of nervousness or jitteriness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating or excessive perspiration
  • Headache or dizziness -Vision changes like blurred vision -Muscle twitching or tremors
    These symptoms are a result of the drug’s stimulant properties. Always remember to consult with your healthcare provider if these conditions persist or become more severe.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Vyvanse?

Vyvanse, while generally considered safe in the correct dosage and under medical supervision, can cause serious side effects in some instances. These include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Symptoms related to heart conditions like chest pain or pressure, trouble breathing or fainting
  • Mood changes that may manifest as aggression, paranoia, suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Circulation problems leading to numbness/pain/cold feeling in hands/feet and unexplained wounds on fingers/toes
  • Hallucinations (seeing/sensing things that are not there), manic episodes characterized by racing thoughts/increased energy/reckless behavior/extreme happiness/talking more than usual/severe sleeping issues
  • Vision changes/blurred vision

If any of these symptoms occur while taking Vyvanse it is important you immediately contact a healthcare professional.

Contraindications for Focalin and Vyvanse?

Both Focalin and Vyvanse, along with most other stimulant medications used to treat ADHD, may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety or agitation in some individuals. If you notice your anxiety worsening or an increase in restlessness or irritability while taking these drugs, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Focalin nor Vyvanse should be taken if you are consuming, or have recently consumed a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor. Always inform your healthcare provider about any medication that you are currently on; MAOIs will require a period of about two weeks to clear from the system completely before starting either Focalin or Vyvanse to prevent life-threatening interactions.

How much do Focalin and Vyvanse cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 30 tablets of Focalin XR (10 mg) averages around $300, which works out to about $10/day.
  • The price for 30 capsules of Vyvanse (70 mg) is approximately $380, working out to roughly $12.67/day.

Thus, if you are in a higher dosage range for Focalin XR (i.e., 20 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Vyvanse may be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis considering its longer duration action and once daily dosing regimen. However, cost should not be the primary consideration in determining which medication is right for you.

When it comes to their generic versions:

  • Dexmethylphenidate HCL ER (generic version of Focalin XR) costs between $.60 and $1.50 per day at typical doses.
  • Currently there's no generic equivalent available for Vyvanse; however, lisdexamfetamine dimesylate - its active ingredient - costs can vary and will likely still remain more costly than dexmethylphenidate HCL ER due to absence of direct generic competition.

Popularity of Focalin and Vyvanse

Dexmethylphenidate, marketed under the brand name Focalin, is a medication used for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in both children and adults. In 2020, it was estimated that around 2 million prescriptions were filled for Focalin in the United States. The use of this drug has seen a slight decrease since its peak prevalence in 2013.

On the other hand, Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, sold as Vyvanse by Shire Pharmaceuticals, is another commonly prescribed ADHD medication. With approximately 10 million prescriptions filled in 2020 alone across America, Vyvanse accounts for just under one-third of all stimulant-based ADHD medications prescribed nationally that year. Since its introduction to the market in 2007-08 time frame and subsequent approval by FDA later on for treatment of binge eating disorder also , Vyvanse has steadily increased in popularity due to its longer duration of action compared to other similar drugs like Adderall XR.


Both Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) and Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) have established records of usage in patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and are supported by numerous clinical studies indicating that they are more effective than placebo. Sometimes, these drugs may be combined under careful consideration by a physician; however, their combination also requires caution due to possible contraindications. Both medications work through increasing levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, but they do so differently: Focalin is a direct acting stimulant while Vyvanse needs to be broken down in the body first before it becomes active.

In terms of prescription order, this usually depends on individual patient factors such as age or presence of comorbid conditions. Both medicines come as branded names but only Focalin has a generic version which represents significant cost savings especially for patients who must pay out-of-pocket.

Both Focalin and Vyvanse require an adjustment period wherein effects may not be noticeable right away. The side effect profile is fairly similar between the two drugs – both being generally well-tolerated but some people report experiencing less appetite suppression with Focalin than with Vyvanse. For both medications, monitoring for changes in mood or behavior is crucial especially when initiating treatment; seeking immediate medical help if any signs of heart problems or suicidal thoughts occur is highly recommended.