THE DARK SIDE OF THE PROZAC FAMILY — (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Original article no longer available

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)

July 16, 2002


Having just finished a course in abnormal psychology, I was thrilled to see the June 30 front page article reprinted from The New York Times, covering some of the larger problems with Prozac and other selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors. It can be very easy to overlook the fact that drug providers are out to make money, too, and it’s good to see a public comparison of the newer drugs.

However, even this picture misses a larger issue: a side effect known as akathisia. This side effect of the SSRI family of drugs produces an anxious state, likened to internal torture, with violent homicidal and suicidal ideation. The fiance of my friend was prescribed Prozac, and this psychotic state ensued. While on the drug, he persistently started fights in public places. Luckily, he was taken off his regimen quickly, and this behavior subsided.

The fact is, though, that the drug companies know about such reactions, according to court documents produced in lawsuits filed by victims or their families against Eli Lilly on this issue. Consider a healthy patient study that compared SSRI drugs and other antidepressants. Ten percent of the healthy individuals taking SSRIs became hyper-agitated and suicidal. And the bottom line of the body of clinical trial studies shows suicide rates with SSRI use three times higher than with older antidepressants and five times higher than with placebos.

The issue isn’t really that this akathisia condition exists purely as a side effect of SSRI use, or that Eli Lilly and other companies like Pfizer continue to sell their product. The importance of this issue lies in the fact that the drug companies simply aren’t honest. With the rate of akathisia being produced in patients on the drugs, the companies have a responsibility: tell the public the truth, so that we all may make sensible decisions. But that would be far too extreme when the current strategy is to market the drugs as if they were as inconsequential as a Gap T-shirt.

Record Number: 0207160081
Copyright (c) 2002 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette