Prozac’s patent soon to expire, controversy still rages

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    By Gretchen Day

    Prozac and other anti-depressant drugs may cause depression sufferers to commit suicide and other violent behavior, said Dr. Ann Blake Tracy of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness.

    Tracy, author of Prozac: Panacea or Pandora has been researching the effects of Prozac and other serotogenic drugs for 10 years. She is releasing her findings as the 14-year patent on Prozac is about to expire and the drug’s maker, Eli Lilly and Co., is getting ready to launch a new version.

    “(Eli Lilly) wants another 14 years of marketing this drug that has been very, very lucrative,” Tracy said. “It’s bringing in $7 million a day.”

    Tracy said the makers of Prozac claim the new version is not as bad as the current Prozac. This statement alone should alarm the public, she said.

    Tracy reported that anti-depressant drug usage is six times higher in Utah Valley than the in other parts of the nation. Questions of safety are at the forefront, she said.

    Violent behavior, road rage, self-mutilation and suicide can all be associated with Prozac and other drugs such as Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, Effexor, Seozone, Celexa, Fen-Phen, Redux, Meridia and Anafranil, Tracy said.

    Dr. Elizabeth Norton, executive coordinator of clinical psychology at BYU, said anti-depressants are helpful for some people.

    “You have to realize that there are millions of people taking (anti-depressants) and it only takes a handful to make it look really bad,” Norton said.

    Norton said some depression sufferers are able to become fully functional with the aid of anti-depressants. Others benefit from the increase of concentration they are allowed when taking anti-depressants and are able to go to therapy, she said.

    According to a Web site for Prozac, tests have proven the product to be safe.

    “The safety and effectiveness of Prozac have been thoroughly studied in clinical trials with more than 35,000 patients,” the site reported. “More than 6,000 scientific papers have been published that discuss the safety and effectiveness of Prozac in treating clinical depression and associated mental illnesses.”

    Opponents to the drug claim that its users behave uncharacteristically, sometimes violently. An article in The Observer reiterated these claims.

    “Clinical research to be published soon will show that up to one in 10 adults who take Prozac can become belligerent and pose a risk to others and themselves,” the article said.

    These concerns have motivated some people to seek alternate forms of treatment for depression.

    Dr. Diane Spangler, a professor of psychology at BYU, said for a disease as serious and painful as depression, seeking help is an individual decision.

    Spangler said 50 percent of patients on anti-depressants have a reduction of symptoms, leaving half with no response to the drugs.

    “Therapy is better to try initially before any drugs are introduced,” Spangler said.

    In a statement made by Eli Lilly and Co., claims of aggressive behavior were denied.

    “Since its discovery in 1972, Prozac has become one of the world’s most studied drugs,” the statement read. “An extensive review of scientific evidence has demonstrated no causal link between Prozac and aggressive behavior.”

    Tracy said some of the violent crimes that have been reported in the news could be partially blamed on anti-depressant drugs. One such case she reported working closely with was comedian Phil Hartman’s murder by his wife and her subsequent suicide.

    Mrs. Hartman was on Zoloft at the time of the murder, and it was causing her to act irrationally, Tracy said. She also claims that Eric Harris, one of the killers in the Columbine massacre, was on Luvox before the killings and was perhaps experiencing the rage that comes from withdrawal.

    Prozac is a drug that has made depression a household word and has more than 35 million users worldwide, according to the Prozac Web site.

    Dr. Gary Tollefson, president of neuroscience products for Eli Lilly and Co., listed some of the benefits of Prozac on the Web site.

    “While Prozac truly has changed the way that depression is treated, it has additionally helped diminish the stigma around the illness,” Tollefson wrote. “In essence, Prozac has redefined seeking help for depression as acceptable.”

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