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About Prozac

Prozac pillsDepression and related disorders are serious, debilitating, and widespread. Pharmaceutical companies have found ways to capitalize on their prevalence – 11% of Americans over the age of 12 now take antidepressants.

However evidence is mounting that the benefits of these drugs are more minimal than most people realize but the side effects – including birth defects, increased risk of autism, and suicidal thoughts and actions, are more dangerous.

Why is Prozac prescribed?

Prozac is prescribed to treat a long list of very common disorders so its widespread use should not be surprising.

Some of the uses include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of premenstrual syndrome)

About Prozac

Prozac is an antidepressant used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It has been widely believed that in some cases, the benefits are great – for example, that it can reduce suicidal thoughts or attempts or control panic attacks. But in some patients, most often children and young adults, the drug actually causes suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Prozac is a trade name of Fluoxetine and it is manufactured and sold by Eli Lilly. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI; it elevates mood by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain but even experts cannot agree on exactly how it works. Other antidepressants in this class of drugs include Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexpro.

FDA studies have found that in mild or moderate depression, SSRI antidepressants like Prozac were not notably more effective than a placebo. Even in patients with severe depression, the improvement in mood was minimal. Prozac is rated as a Category C drug for use in pregnancy, which means its risk cannot be ruled out.

Prozac as the gateway to widespread antidepressant use

The FDA approved Prozac in 1987. It was originally developed as a treatment for blood pressure but when it failed to improve hypertension symptoms, the manufacturer tested it as a weight loss drug. When that also failed, researchers noticed that it tended to improve the moods of test volunteers suffering from mild depression. It was re-branded in 1988 as a wonder drug to treat the numerous emotional problems that patients suffered from before “depression” became a household word.

Since Prozac was released to the public, the use of antidepressants has quadrupled. According to the CDC, more than one in every 10 Americans was taking an antidepressant by 2012. Unfortunately, despite the risky side effects of drugs like Prozac, the American Psychological Association believes that their benefits are surprisingly small.

Side effects of Prozac

Prozac use comes along with a rash of side effects, some mild and some severe. The more frequent side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Joint pain
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive thirst
  • Sexual problems
  • Chest pains

Less common but more severe side effects include:

  • Serotonin Syndrome (a life-threatening condition that can cause hallucinations, seizures, and coma)
  • Hives
  • Chills
  • Trouble breathing
  • Intestinal ulcers
  • Seizures
  • Excessive cheerfulness and activity
  • Mania
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Birth defects
  • Drug dependency

Prozac linked with birth defects

Studies have shown that babies whose mothers took Prozac while they were still in the womb were more likely to develop autism. There are also reports that Prozac has been linked with undersized babies with breathing problems, congenital heart defects, limb malformation, and cleft palates.

One study found that newborns whose mothers took SSRIs during pregnancy were six times more likely to suffer from persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN). PPHN is a serious lung condition in newborns that appears shortly after birth. It is marked by high pressure in the newborn’s lungs and interferes with the baby’s ability to pull enough oxygen into the bloodstream. PPHN is life-threatening.

Autism risk

A 2014 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that prenatal exposure to SSRIs is correlated with a higher risk to the child of developing an autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay. The risk is highest for boys. The correlation is strongest when the SSRI is taken in the first trimester but it is also elevated if taken in the third trimester.

Suicidal tendencies and SSRIs

The FDA warns that Prozac and similar SSRIs can cause suicidal thoughts or actions. This serious side effect is most common in children, teenagers, and young adults and typically appears within the first few months of use or when the dose is changed. Anyone taking Prozac should be on the lookout for serious or sudden changes in behavior or mood and call a doctor if any are noted.

Prozac litigation

It has been reported that thousands of people have sued Eli Lilly over the dangerous physical and emotional effects of Prozac. It is estimated that by 2000, Eli Lilly had already paid over $50 million to settle more than 30 Prozac lawsuits that involved murder or suicide.

Individuals and families hurt by Prozac-related birth defects may be able to recover compensation as well.  Economic recovery can afford the victim compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and lifestyle changes. It can also compensate for the non-economic losses like loss of companionship and household services. A Prozac lawyer can explain your rights and help you decide your best course of action.

  1. WebMD, Drugs & Medications - Prozac Oral,
  2. MedlinePlus, Fluoxetine,
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics, Prenatal SSRI Use and Offspring With Autism Spectrum Disorder or Developmental Delay,
  4. American Psychological Association, Inappropriate Prescribing,
  5. National Institute of Mental Heath, Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers,
  6. FDA, Public Health Advisory: Treatment Challenges of Depression in Pregnancy and the Possibility of Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension in Newborns,