Prozac is a brand name for the prescription drug fluoxetine. Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Eli Lilly and Company manufactures this drug. It's for patients with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), bulimia nervosa, and panic disorder.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Prozac in 1987. Since then, millions of Americans have taken Prozac. Most patients don't experience serious side effects while taking this medication. But some patients have sued Eli Lilly after taking Prozac, alleging severe health complications.
Here, we'll provide an overview of Prozac, including the drug's serious side effects. We'll also explain why patients have sued the drug manufacturer after taking this medication.
Why Would Your Healthcare Provider Prescribe Prozac?
Physicians prescribe Prozac to treat a variety of mental health disorders. Primarily, patients taking Prozac suffer from depression. But the medication helps with other conditions as well.
Some of the conditions Prozac treats include:
- Major depressive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Bulimia nervosa
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Prozac is only available through prescription. You can't get this drug over the counter.
Some of the FDA-approved off-label uses include:
- Premature ejaculation
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
These medications manipulate the chemicals in your brain that regulate your mood. Specifically, they increase serotonin levels in your brain to improve your mood. They do this by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in your brain.
How Does Prozac Work?
Prozac, like other SSRIs, increases serotonin levels in your brain. Prozac works like most other antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants. For many patients suffering from depression and anxiety, Prozac has proven to be helpful. But it may not help with treatment-resistant depression.
Some drugs similar to Prozac include:
- Zoloft (sertraline) - Helps with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, and depression
- Celexa (citalopram) - Treats major depressive disorder
- Effexor (venlafaxine) - Doctors prescribe Effexor for patients suffering from social anxiety and depression
- Paxil (paroxetine) - Works as an antidepressant and helps with social anxiety disorder
- BuSpar (buspirone) - Helps reduce anxiety symptoms and trouble sleeping
- Nardil (phenelzine) - Treats depression
- Zyprexa (olanzapine) - Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder take this medication
Prozac isn't a tricyclic antidepressant, but it works similarly. Both types of drugs increase serotonin levels. The difference is that tricyclic antidepressants also boost the amount of epinephrine in your brain.
You take Prozac orally, with or without food. If your healthcare professional prescribes the weekly version of Prozac, take it once weekly. Make sure you allow for seven days between doses.
If you miss a dose, contact your doctor. They may recommend you take your next dose immediately, or they may tell you to wait. The last thing you want to do is trigger withdrawal symptoms, which can happen if you suddenly stop taking Prozac.
Side Effects of Prozac
Almost all medications have possible side effects. The same is true for Prozac. For most people, these side effects are minor. Other patients may experience severe side effects.
Common side effects of Prozac include:
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Loss of appetite
- Sexual dysfunction
- Reduced sex drive
- Flu-like symptoms
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss or weight gain
This medication can also cause severe side effects. If you experience any of these while taking Prozac, contact your doctor immediately. The side effects can indicate dangerous health consequences. Severe side effects of fluoxetine include:
- Anorexia and other eating disorders
- Irregular heartbeat
- Suicidal thoughts
- Kidney problems
If these adverse effects persist, your doctor can prescribe a different antidepressant. Don't stop taking Prozac without talking to your healthcare provider.
Prozac and Serotonin Syndrome
In July 2006, the FDA issued an alert that a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome can occur while taking SSRIs like Prozac.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:
- Loss of coordination
- Fast heartbeat
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid changes in blood pressure
- Overactive reflexes
Serotonin syndrome can prove fatal. Seek immediate medical attention. Patients taking Prozac will rarely experience serotonin syndrome. But this condition is so severe that you can't be too safe.
Antidepressants and Pregnant Women
Everyone must be careful about the prescription drugs they take. This is especially true for pregnant women. You must be cautious even if you take an over-the-counter remedy such as St. John's wort or melatonin. These medications and supplements can impact your and your unborn baby's health.
In 2006, the FDA cautioned that women taking antidepressants during pregnancy put their babies at risk for persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Babies born with PPHN have abnormal blood flow through the heart and lungs. Their bodies don't receive enough oxygen, and they can die.
Talk to your doctor if you're taking Prozac and are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Similarly if you're breastfeeding. Your breast milk will contain the drug and could make your baby sick.
Prozac and Increased Risk of Suicidality
In October 2004, the FDA directed all antidepressant manufacturers to revise their product labeling to include warning statements about an increased risk of suicidality in children, adolescents, and young adults.
Eli Lilly and Company added a black box warning to Prozac prescribing information. Along with the FDA, the drug manufacturer warned patients to look out for worsening depression and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Certain People Should Not Take Prozac
Prozac helps millions of people suffering from depression. But some people should avoid SSRIs like Prozac. For example, don't use Prozac if you are taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or you have stopped taking an MAOI in the last 14 days.
Taking Prozac and an MAOI can result in severe and sometimes fatal reactions. Some of these adverse reactions include:
- High body temperature (fever)
- Seizures or convulsions
After you stop taking Prozac, you should not take an MAOI for five weeks.
You should also avoid Prozac if you're taking Mellaril (thioridazine), a drug used to treat schizophrenia. Taking Prozac and Mellaril within a short period can result in serious heartbeat problems.
Recent Prozac News
See below for some recent news about Prozac.
Prozac's Effect on COVID-19
In February 2021, researchers at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life published a study indicating that Prozac may help battle COVID-19. According to this study, Prozac (fluoxetine) has anti-inflammatory properties. The drug helps block a protein that tells your body it's time to fight an infection.
When people contract COVID-19, their body goes into extreme fight or flight mode. The brain knows your body is at risk, so it tells your immune system to go on high alert. When this happens, people begin experiencing multiorgan failure. This is the primary reason why so many COVID-19 patients die.
The study confirmed that people who took Prozac while battling COVID-19 had reduced hospitalization and a much better chance of surviving the virus.
Suicide Risk While Using Prozac
As early as 2000, experts suggested that Prozac may cause suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. The FDA even directed antidepressant medication manufacturers to change their warning labels to include the risk of suicidality.
At the same time, there have been other studies that show that drugs like Prozac decrease a patient's chances of committing suicide. This is especially true for adults with minor depressive disorders. Patients must weigh any prescription medication's risks and benefits before using them.
What To Do if You Become Sick After Taking Prozac
If you become seriously ill after taking Prozac, you have rights. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may need to sue the drug manufacturer. You may also need to pursue a medical malpractice claim against your healthcare professional.
Most patients who suffer harm after taking a prescription medication file a product liability lawsuit against the drugmaker. Under product liability law, manufacturers must market and sell safe products. This also applies to drug companies. They must also provide the medical community and public information about the risks and adverse side effects of their drugs. The courts may hold them liable for patient injuries if they don't.
The other type of lawsuit you may need to file is a medical malpractice claim. If your doctor fails to check for adverse drug interactions or doesn't warn you of a drug's risks, the courts may hold them responsible for your injuries. Your malpractice attorney must prove that the doctor acted negligently or recklessly for you to recover damages.
Regardless of which type of case you pursue, your attorney will demand damages. These may include economic and non-economic damages, including but not limited to the following:
- Medical bills and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost future income
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Punitive damages
Very few plaintiffs receive punitive damages. The courts reserve these for cases where the defendant behaved egregiously or maliciously.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Some Prozac patients suffer serious injuries. If you or your loved one suffer an injury from this medication, seek immediate medical attention. Next, you should contact an experienced product liability attorney. Visit FindLaw.com's attorney directory to find a personal injury lawyer near you.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified product liability attorney to make sure your rights are protected.