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No letup in the demand for Prozac.

Despite repeated (and still unsubstantiated) legal claims against it, Eli Lilly and Company's antidepressant, Prozac, continues to find increasing acceptance by doctors and patients alike. Although doctors are increasingly prescribing it for such other uses as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and premenstrual syndrome, its successful control of clinical depression is responsible for its ever-increasing use.

Like Zoloft and Paxil, its two main competitors, Prozac is one of a class of new antidepressant drugs called serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that affect the level of serotonin, a chemical produced in the brain that affects one's mood. Because they have fewer side effects than the older antidepressants, and are safer if there is overdose, physicians have been much freer in prescribing them--and patients are not likely to discontinue using them.

Some health professionals have doubtless been guilty of their questionable use for such minor problems as shyness or boredom. They have been a real boon, however, to family-practice doctors, many of whom have become more skillful in recognizing clinical depression. Now they, too, have a class of drugs that greatly increases the odds of successfully treating this debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition.

The SSRIs have played a significant role in cutting healthcare costs. Rather than requiring expensive, long-term psychiatric care, patients with depression can now be maintained indefinitely on these drugs alone. The economic benefits are also seen in the increased productivity of persons with clinical depression--to say nothing of the incalculable benefits of preventing the depression-induced suicides common to this condition.
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Author:Brown, Edwin W.
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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