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Concerta vs Generic Methylphenidate ER for ADHD

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on April 15, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Just a few years ago, ADHD med Concerta (methylphenidate ER) received the okay from the FDA for a generic version, making the less expensive methylphenidate ER available as an alternative.

However, you may or may not know that brand name Concerta has a very unique delivery system, OROS (Osmotic [Controlled] Release Oral [Delivery] System). This is the way in which the medication is released from the tablet throughout the day once it has been ingested. In fact, Concerta is the only ADHD medication with the OROS delivery system. Since generic Concerta is available from several manufacturers, it is important to understand the various delivery systems and how they may differ from one another.

Which pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing generic Concerta?

  • Actavis (formerly Watson)
  • Kremers
  • Mallinckrodt

What strengths do Concerta and generic methylphendiate ER come in?
Concerta (methylphenidate ER) is available in the following strengths: 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, 54 mg. However, generic methylphenidate is not available in all strengths from all manufacturers (the 18 mg strength is not available from Mallinckrodt).

Will the tablets look different between manufacturers?

Yes. The various manufacturers are not required to have the same inactive ingredients—therefore, the tablets most likely will NOT look the same. The variation in tablet color and markings is actually helpful in determining which company made which tablet. You can see how the different tablets look here.

Actavis Delivery System:

Actavis tablets use osmotic pressure (also known as water pressure) to deliver the medication throughout the day at a controlled rate. The tablet consists of two layers— the first layer dissolves within 1 hour and releases an initial dose of methylphenidate, and the second layer releases the rest of the medication over a duration of 6 to 7 hours. This generic is approved under the same application as brand name Concerta, and is similar to the OROS delivery system.

Kremers Delivery System:

Kremers tablets use extended-release bead technology to deliver the medication throughout the day at a controlled rate. These tablets also consist of two layers—the first layer dissolves within 1 hour and releases an initial dose of methylphenidate and the second layer releases the medication over a duration of 12 hours.

Mallinckrodt Delivery System:

Mallinckrodt tablets use a precisely designed diffusion process (similar to Actavis) to deliver the medication throughout the day at a controlled rate. The tablet again consists of two layers—the first layer dissolves within 1 hour and releases an initial dose of methylphenidate and the second layer releases the medication over a duration of 6 to 7 hours

How does the OROS delivery system release Concerta?

The OROS delivery system is similar to the generic Actavis tablets. The tablet has a water-permeable shell with small holes in it; this allows water to enter and push the medication out through the holes as the tablet passes through your body. Concerta uses osmotic pressure to deliver the medication throughout the day at a controlled rate, from a two-layered tablet that releases an initial dose within 1 hour and the rest of the medication over 6 to 7 hours.

Is there anything else important I should know about Concerta or generic methylphenidate ER?

It is possible that the shell of the tablet may come out in your stool and may be visible on abdominal x-rays.

Are the generics all interchangeable with Concerta?

Yes. All of these generics can be substituted for Concerta.

Although Concerta is the only ADHD medication to use the OROS drug delivery system, the generic manufacturers have all designed comparable delivery systems that are interchangeable and can be substituted.


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