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Zoloft Was Among Top Selling Drugs in 2011

Sep 21, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Zoloft was among the most prescribed drugs in the U.S. last year, this despite many concerns about its ability as an effective antidepressant drug and its link to dangerous side effects.

According to a report this week from Houston Business Journal, Pfizer’s Zoloft and Xanax were among the best-selling drugs in 2011. The cholesterol drug Lipitor topped the list, generating $7.7 billion in revenue. These statistics were made available in the most recent edition of the journal ACS Chemical Neurosciences, which found that sales of prescription drugs last year were higher than any in the past.

More than four billion prescriptions were filled last year. The 4.02 billion sold last year topped the 3.99 billion sold in 2010. Because Lipitor topped the list, the study determined that Americans, as a whole, suffer from poor lifestyle choices and diets, things that would likely increase a person’s cholesterol.

Zoloft and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants were the most prescribed drugs, as a class, overall. Sales of these drugs actually decreased last year to $11 billion from the $11.6 billion generated in 2010 but the study does not indicate if other factors, like the use of generic medications over name brand drugs, could have impacted the sale figures.

Still, the rate and ratio at which Americans are prescribed SSRI antidpressants suggests that many people have not been made aware of their potential side effects and recent studies that suggest most of these prescriptions have no effect on a patient.

Chief among those who likely are unaware of Zoloft’s link to dangerous side effects are expecting mothers. Zoloft, and many other SSRI drugs, have been linked to serious and some life-threatening birth defects. It was not until 2006 that the FDA warned of the potential risks to an unborn baby Zoloft posed, especially when taken by women prior to or during the early stages of pregnancy. This warning came a year after a study linked expecting mothers taking Zoloft to a 60 percent increased risk of congenital heart defects.

In addition to that life-threatening birth defect, other women claim taking Zoloft caused them to give birth to a baby born with Down’s syndrome, undescended testes in males, blindness, spina bifida, hernia, physical malformations, clubfoot, and cleft lip or cleft palate.

A study published in New England Journal of Medicine established that women taking Zoloft increased their risk of giving birth to a child with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) was six-fold higher than women who avoided the drug.

In some cases, expecting mothers or women who wish to get pregnant and suffer from moderate-to-severe depression face a dilemma in their family planning. But as sales figures suggest, Zoloft is being prescribed much more wantonly, and several studies suggest as many as three-quarters of prescriptions written for SSRI antidepressants are unnecessary and that prolonged use of the drug likely will decrease its effectiveness, if it was even providing any to the patient.

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