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Systematic (IUPAC) name
Clinical data
Trade names Afken, Estulic, Intuniv, Tenex
Licence data US Daily Med:
  • US: B (No risk in non-human studies)
Legal status
Routes of
oral, intravenous
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability 80-100% (IR), 58% (XR)[1][2]
Protein binding 70%[1][2]
Metabolism CYP3A4[1][2]
Biological half-life IR: 10-17 hours; XR: 17 hours (10-30) in adults & adolescents and 14 hours in Paediatrics[1][2][3][4]
Excretion renal (80%; 50% [range: 40-75%] as unchanged drug)[1][2]
CAS Registry Number  Y
ATC code C02
PubChem CID:
DrugBank  Y
ChemSpider  Y
Chemical data
Formula C9H9Cl2N3O
Molecular mass 246.093 g/mol

Guanfacine (brand name Estulic, Tenex and the extended release Intuniv) is a sympatholytic drug used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and hypertension.[5] It is a selective α2A receptor agonist. These receptors are concentrated heavily in the prefrontal cortex and the locus coeruleus, with the potential to improve attention resulting from interaction with receptors in the former.[6] Guanfacine lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by activating the central nervous system α2A norepinephrine autoreceptors, which results in reduced peripheral sympathetic outflow and thus a reduction in peripheral sympathetic tone.[7]

Guanfacine is currently approved and marketed in the United States as Intuniv[8] and has been filed and is under investigation by the European Medicines Agency[9] for the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents aged 6–18 years.


  • Medical uses 1
    • Hypertension 1.1
    • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder 1.2
    • Anxiety 1.3
    • Tics 1.4
    • Treatment of withdrawal syndrome 1.5
  • Adverse effects 2
    • Interactions 2.1
  • Pharmacokinetics and metabolism 3
  • Pharmacology 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes and references 6
  • External links 7

Medical uses


It has been shown to reduce hypertension not just in the short-term, but also in long-term studies to be able to achieve normalization in the of blood pressure of 54% of patients treated over a year and 66% over two years. The average reduction in mean arterial pressure of all patients was 16% at the end of the first year and 17% at the end of the second year. [10]

Red pills
1 mg guanfacine tablets.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved guanfacine for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), like clonidine, alone or with stimulants in 2010, for pediatric patients aged 6–17 years.[11] Its beneficial actions are likely due to its ability to strengthen prefrontal cortical regulation of attention and behavior.[12] Guanfacine is also used in conjunction with stimulants to augment therapeutic actions, reduce rebound, and when taken at evening, to induce sleep.[13] Guanfacine is thought to improve regulation of behavior, attention, and emotion through actions at post-synaptic α2A adrenergic receptors on prefrontal cortical neurons, which strengthen prefrontal cortical network connections.[14] In animal models, guanfacine is seen to affect a number of cognitive factors, including working memory improvement, distractibility reduction, response inhibition improvement, and enhanced attention and impulse control. Improvement is most evident in subjects with cognitive deficits; more subtle effects are seen in healthy young animals.[12] Performance increases in spatial working memory have also been observed in humans.[15] Another study found no effect on healthy male adults' executive functions and working memory, and small decrements on 2 tasks relating to the sedative effect of guanfacine.[16] Recent studies suggest that guanfacine may help patients with a variety of prefrontal cortical disorders, including traumatic brain injury to the frontal lobe,[17] strokes affecting higher cognitive function,[18] and dysregulated emotional behavior, e.g. in children who have been traumatized.[19]

Side effects of guanfacine are dose-dependent.[20]


Another psychiatric use of guanfacine is for treatment of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. Guanfacine and other α2A agonists have anxiolytic-like action,[21] reducing sympathetic arousal in the emotional responses of the amygdala, and strengthen prefrontal cortical regulation of emotion, action and thought. Due to its prolonged half-life, it also has been seen to improve sleep interrupted by nightmares in PTSD patients.[22] All of these actions likely contribute to the relief of the hyperarousal, re-experiencing of memory, and impulsivity associated with PTSD.[23] However, a recent study showed no benefit for patients suffering from PTSD.[24]


According to recent studies (Srour et al., 2008) there is controversy as to guanfacine’s usefulness in treating tics. There has been success when tic symptoms are co-morbid with ADHD, and as such, guanfacine and other α2A-adrenergic agonists (clonidine) are commonly the first choice for treatment.

Treatment of withdrawal syndrome

Guanfacine is also being investigated for treatment of withdrawal for opioids, ethanol, and nicotine.[25]

Adverse effects

Adverse effects incidence:[2]
Very common (>10% incidence) adverse effects include:

  • Xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • Somnolence (sleepiness)
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain

Common (1-10% incidence) adverse effects include:

Unknown frequency adverse effects include:


  • CYP3A4/5 inhibitors — Use caution. Elevates plasma concentration of guanfacine.
  • CYP3A4 inducers — Recommended increase in guanfacine dose.
  • Valproic acid — Use caution. Elevates plasma concentration of valproic acid.
  • Antihypertensive drugs — Use caution. Potential for additive pharmacodynamic effects (hypotension, syncope, etc.)
  • CNS depressant drugs — Use caution. Potential for additive pharmacodynamic effects (sedation, somnolence, etc.)

Pharmacokinetics and metabolism

Guanfacine has an oral bioavailability of 80%. There is no clear evidence of any first-pass metabolism. Elimination half-life is 17 hours with the major elimination route being renal. The principal metabolite is the 3-hydroxy-derivative, with evidence of moderate biotransformation, and the key intermediate being an epoxide.[26] It is also shown that elimination in patients with impaired renal function does not differ significantly from those with normal renal function. As such, metabolism by liver is the assumption for those with impaired renal function, as supported by increased frequency of known side effects of orthostatic hypotension and sedation.[27] In animal models, guanfacine’s enhancing effects on the working-memory functions of the pre-frontal cortex are thought to be due to inhibition of cAMP-mediated signaling, which is effected by the Gi proteins that are generally coupled to the post-synaptic alpha-2a-adrenoceptors that guanfacine stimulates through binding.[28]


Guanfacine is a highly selective agonist of the α2A adrenergic receptor, with negligible affinity for any other receptor.[29] However, may also be a potent 5-HT2B receptor agonist, potentially contributing to valvulopathy.[30]

Receptor Ki (nM)
α2A 71.8
α2B 1200.2
α2C 2505.2

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e "Guanfacine (guanfacine) Tablet [Genpharm Inc.]". DailyMed. Genpharm Inc. March 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "guanfacine (Rx) - Intuniv, Tenex". Medscape Reference. WebMD. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Hofer, Kristi N.; Buck, Marcia L. (2008). "New Treatment Options for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Part II. Guanfacine". Pediatric Pharmacotherapy (Medscape) (14): 4. 
  4. ^ Cruz, MP (Aug 2010). "Guanfacine Extended-Release Tablets (Intuniv), a Nonstimulant Selective Alpha(2A)-Adrenergic Receptor Agonist For Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.". P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management 35 (8): 448–51.  
  5. ^
  6. ^ Kolar, Dusan; Keller, Amanda; Golfinopoulos, Maria; Cumyn, Lucy; Syer, Cassidy & Hechtman, Lily (2008), "Treatment of adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder", Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 4 (2): 389–403,  .
  7. ^ Van Zwieten, P.; Thoolen, M. & Timmermans, P. (1983), "The pharmacology of centrally acting antihypertensive drugs", British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 15 (Suppl 4): 455S–462S,  .
  8. ^ "FDA Approves Intuniv". September 2009. 
  9. ^ "Shire submits INTUNIV® (guanfacine extended release) Marketing Authorisation Application to EMA". 3 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Jerie, P. (1980). "Clinical experience with guanfacine in long-term treatment of hypertension: Part I: efficacy and dosage". British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 10 (Suppl 1): 37S–47S.  .
  11. ^ Kornfield R, Watson S, Higashi A, Dusetzina S, Conti R, Garfield R, Dorsey ER, Huskamp HA, Alexander GC; Watson; Higashi; Conti; Dusetzina; Garfield; Dorsey; Huskamp; Alexander (April 2013). "Impact of FDA Advisories on Pharmacologic Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder". Psychiatric Services 64 (4): 339–46.  
  12. ^ a b Arnsten AF (October 2010), "The use of α2A adrenergic agonists for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder", Expert Rev Neurother 10 (10): 1595–605,  
  13. ^ Zito, Julie M.; Derivan, Albert T.; Kratochvil, Christopher J.; Safer, DJ; et al. (2008), "Off-label psychopharmacologic prescribing for children: History supports close clinical monitoring", Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2 (1): 24,  
  14. ^ Wang, M; Ramos, BP (2007), "Alpha2A-adrenoceptors strengthen working memory networks by inhibiting cAMP-HCN channel signaling in prefrontal cortex", Cell 129 (2): 397–410,  
  15. ^ Jäkälä P; Riekkinen M; Sirviö J (May 1999), "Guanfacine, but not clonidine, improves planning and working memory performance in humans", Neuropsychopharmacology 20 (5): 460–70,  
  16. ^ Müller, U; Clark, L; Lam, ML; Moore, RM; Murphy, CL; Richmond, NK; Sandhu, RS; Wilkins, IA; Menon, DK; et al. (2005), "Lack of effects of guanfacine on executive and memory functions in healthy male volunteers", Psychopharmacology 182 (2): 205–13,  
  17. ^ McAllister TW; McDonald BC; Flashman LA (October 2011), "Alpha-2 adrenergic challenge with guanfacine one month after mild traumatic brain injury: altered working memory and BOLD response", Int J Psychophysiol 82 (1): 107–14,  
  18. ^ Singh-Curry V, Malhotra P, Farmer SF, Husain M; Malhotra; Farmer; Husain (June 2011), "Attention deficits following ADEM ameliorated by guanfacine", J. Neurol. Neurosurg. Psychiatr. 82 (6): 688–90,  
  19. ^ Connor DF; Findling RL; Kollins SH (September 2010), "Effects of guanfacine extended release on oppositional symptoms in children aged 6-12 years with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial", CNS Drugs 24 (9): 755–68,  
  20. ^ Jerie, P. (1980), "Clinical experience with guanfacine in long-term treatment of hypertension: Part II: adverse reactions to guanfacine", British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 10 (Suppl 1): 157S–164S,  .
  21. ^ Brain Res. 2004 Nov 19;1027(1-2):173-8. Noradrenergic alpha-2 agonists have anxiolytic-like actions on stress-related behavior and mesoprefrontal dopamine biochemistry. Morrow BA, George TP, Roth RH
  22. ^ Kozarlc-Kovaclc, D. (2008), "Psychopharmacotherapy of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder", Croatian Medical Journal 49 (4): 459–475,  .
  23. ^ Kaminer, D.; Seedat, S. & Stein, D. (2005), "Post-traumatic stress disorder in children", World Psychiatry 4 (2): 121–5,  .
  24. ^ Neylan,, T.; Lenoci, M. & Samuelson, K. (2006), "No Improvement of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms With Guanfacine Treatment", American Journal of Psychiatry 163 (12): 2186–2188,  
  25. ^ Sofuogul, M. & Sewell, A. (2009), "Norepinephrine and Stimulant Addiction",  
  26. ^ Kiechel, J. (1980), "Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of guanfacine in man: A review", British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 10 (Suppl 1): 25S–32S,  .
  27. ^ Kirch, W.; Kohler, H. & Braun, W. (1980), "Elimination of guanfacine in patients with normal and impaired renal function", British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 10 (Suppl 1): 33S–35S,  .
  28. ^ Ramos, Brian P.; Stark, David; Verduzco, Luis; van Dyck, Christopher H.; Arnsten, Amy F. T. (2006), "α2A-adrenoceptor stimulation improves prefrontal cortical regulation of behavior through inhibition of cAMP signaling in aging animals", Learning & Memory 13 (6): 770–6,  .
  29. ^ Roth, BL; Driscol, J (12 January 2011), Database"i"PDSP K, Psychoactive Drug Screening Program (PDSP) (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the United States National Institute of Mental Health), retrieved 15 November 2013 
  30. ^ Xi-Ping Huang; Vincent Setola; Prem N. Yadav; John A. Allen; Sarah C. Rogan; Bonnie J. Hanson; Chetana Revankar; Matt Robers; Chris Doucette; Bryan L. Roth (29 June 2009), Parallel Functional Activity Profiling Reveals Valvulopathogens Are Potent 5-Hydroxytryptamine2B Receptor Agonists: Implications for Drug Safety Assessment, ASPET Journals, retrieved 1 January 2014 

External links

  • Intuniv
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