Prozac (fluoxetine) was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant approved to treat depression. Prozac is also approved to treat other mental health conditions including obsessive compulsive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

Among the ever-growing list of pharmaceutical antidepressants, Prozac is the third most-prescribed. Prozac is a third-generation antidepressant medication that gained FDA approval in 1987. It was patented by the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical corporation, and has been a highly reputable name of the pharmaceutical industry for more than a decade. Prozac is from the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of compounds.

Generic Prozac was prescribed to more than 24.4 million U.S. patients in 2010. Some of Prozac’s main uses include treatment for mild to severe mental disorders such as major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and bulimia nervosa. While Prozac has helped many patients, it has caused serious side effects such as suicide and birth defects when taken during pregnancy.

Common Side Effects

Prozac treatment is associated with a wide range of side effects. It is believed that over-prescription has also contributed to the problems caused by side effects. Among the most common issues concerning Prozac use are sexual side effects and possible withdrawal symptoms after a patient stops taking Prozac. There are also a number of adverse side effects that have been experience over the years since Prozac was put into the pharmaceutical market.

Some of the side effects from a Prozac prescription include:

  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Increased sweating
  • Weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia

Typically, higher doses of Prozac increase the occurrence of side effects. Some side effects are potentially fatal. Serotonin Syndrome is an acute clinical condition which can develop within a matter of minutes and cause life-threatening complications. Serotonin Syndrome occurs when the patient’s serotonin levels rise to the point of physiologic toxicity. The result is a foundational change in systemic activities, since serotonin plays an important role controlling vital bodily drives and functions. Some of the symptoms of this condition are high blood pressure, increased body temperature, and increased heart rate. The condition can lead to shock and ultimately death. Serotonin Syndrome from Prozac often occurs when used in conjunction with other serotonergic medications or supplements. However, it can also occur with the use of Prozac alone.

Prozac Black-Box Warning

Suicide warnings have been issued with the prescription of Prozac due to a statistical increase in the risk of suicide following Prozac treatment. The warning on the drug insert is known as a black-box warning because of the black border placed around the text. A black box warning is the most serious advisory given for the use of a medication.

Suicidal ideations and behavior may become evident within the first one or two months of an initial Prozac treatment. Harmful effects can also occur as a result of attempting consecutive antidepressant therapies, such as using Prozac after using a different SSRI antidepressant.

Prozac During Pregnancy

SSRIs like Prozac are usually a “C” grade medication regarding use during pregnancy. This designation means that Prozac can cause harm to animals or humans in large doses, but the effects on unborn children is not yet proven. As a result, it may not be safe for use during pregnancy.

There have been a number of reports and research experiments to suggest that Prozac and numerous other antidepressant medications can cause problems to either the mother or child when used during pregnancy. Some of the issues encountered when using Prozac for antidepressant treatment during pregnancy are persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, heart defects, autism spectrum disorder, and premature birth.

Prozac Lawsuits

A number of patients are filing lawsuits against Prozac manufacturer Eli Lilly. Many plaintiffs allege that Eli Lilly failed to give consumers adequate warning of the serious complications of using Prozac. Eli Lilly has already settled a number of Prozac lawsuits. By 2000, the company paid roughly $50 million towards more than 30 lawsuits related to suicides and murders from Prozac patients.

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