What is Zoloft?
Zoloft (sertraline) belongs to a class of medicines called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). It is a prescription drug used for treatment of depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (SAD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, posttraumatic disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Zoloft was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991 and is made by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals.
Special Instructions for Taking Zoloft Oral Concentrate
Zoloft oral concentrate should be taken immediately after being diluted and mixed well in a cup of water, lemon or lime soda, ginger ale, or lemon juice. Let your healthcare provider know if you have any allergy to latex since there is natural rubber used in the dropper for measuring Zoloft oral concentrate.
Zoloft FDA Alert – Serotonin Syndrome
The US FDA issued an alert in July 2006, warning of the possible development of a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome which may be caused by Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI) such as Zoloft, if they are taken with migraine medications such as 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor agonists (triptans).
Signs and symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:
- Fast changes in blood pressure
- Fast heartbeat
- Increased body temperature
- Loss of coordination
- Overactive reflexes
Serotonin syndrome is more likely to occur at the start or increase of the dose of an SSRI or a triptan. Make sure to inform your healthcare professional if you are taking triptan before taking Zoloft.
FDA Alert – Antidepressants and Pregnant Women
In the same month as the alert for the serotonin syndrome, FDA issued another alert in response to a result of a study on the effects on their babies of the use of antidepressants by pregnant women. It has been found that such babies will most likely be born with a very serious condition persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).
PPHN is a very serious condition and may even cause deaths in infants afflicted with it because it causes an abnormal flow to the heart and lungs, resulting in an insufficient amount of oxygen supply in these organs. The FDA said they will conduct further studies to find out the effects of taking SSRIs while pregnant to the newborn babies.
If you are pregnant or have plans of conceiving, discuss it with your healthcare provider.
For more information on antidepressants, visit the FDA website by following this link.
Zoloft and Increased Risk of Suicidality
The FDA issued an advisory in October 2004, directing all manufacturers of antidepressants to make changes on their products’ labels and include a warning and expanded warning statements that alert healthcare providers to an increased risk of suicidality (suicidal thinking and behavior) in children and adolescents being treated with these medications. Pfizer complied with this and included a boxed warning indicating such on Zoloft packaging.
Another announcement was made by the FDA in June 2005 to let the public know of what scientific publications have to say about the effects of antidepressants such as Zoloft. These publications have suggested that there may be an increased risk of suicidal behavior in adults taking such medications. The FDA recommends that such individuals should be closely watched for signs of worsening of their depression and increase in suicidality, especially at the start of the medication, or when changes in the dosage is administered.
Who Should Not Take Zoloft?
There are some people who are advised to not take Zoloft, such as those who are already taking another medication for treatment of depression such as Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor (MAOI), or if MAOI has been taken within the last 14 days prior.
Some examples of MAOI drugs are:
- Marplan (isocarboxazid)
- Nardil (phenelzine sulfate)
- Parnate (tranylcypromine sulfate)
Zoloft can react to MAOI and may sometimes cause:
- High body temperature
- Seizures (convulsions)
Just the same, MAOI should not be taken within 5 weeks of taking Zoloft.
Zoloft should never be taken with the schizophrenia treatment called Mellaril (thioridazine). Mellaril should not be taken within 5 weeks of taking Zoloft. These two drugs, when taken together within a close period may result in certain heart problems.
Health Risks of Zoloft
Zoloft may cause the following health risks:
- Weight loss
- Bleeding Problems
- Possible development of serotonin syndrome when Zoloft is taken with triptan medicines
- Problems if you are or may become pregnant; babies delivered to mothers taking Zoloft late in pregnancy have developed problems, such as difficulty breathing and feeding.
- Infant persistent pulmonary hypertension
- Sexual Problems, including impotence (erectile dysfunction), abnormal ejaculation, difficulty reaching orgasm, or decreased libido (sexual desire)
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Possible allergic reactions, such as skin rash, hives, breathing problems, or swelling of the tongue, lips, or throat
- Seizures (convulsions), even if not taken within a close period of time with a MAOI
- Mania (becoming unusually hyperactive, excitable, or elated)
Other side effects from Zoloft use may include:
- Difficulty sleeping
There may also be some harmful side effects if Zoloft is stopped suddenly. Your doctor should prescribe decreased dosage prior to weaning you off of Zoloft.
Can Other Medicines or Food Affect Zoloft?
Consult with your doctor if you are taking any other medicine, whether prescription or over-the-counter, vitamins or supplements, before taking Zoloft. The following are some that may possibly cause unwanted health reactions when taken with Zoloft:
- Those used to treat diabetes, seizures, mental illness, anxiety, or depression
- Those that affect bleeding
- Do not take Zoloft with Sarafem (Zoloft hydrochloride), a drug used to treat PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). These drugs are very similar and could result in an overdose.
Talk to your healthcare professional if you are on Zoloft and you plan to take alcohol.
Get Legal Help
Even if most medicines are expected to have side effects, it is the duty of the manufacturer of these medicines to inform the medical community and the public of known risks associated with the drugs they produce. Failure to give adequate warning to the public and the medical community of the dangers of the drug makes the manufacturer liable under product liability for any injury that may be caused by their product.
If you or your loved one has suffered any of the dangerous symptoms or unusual reaction after taking Zoloft, go to your doctor or the hospital as soon as possible. You may also consider consulting with an experienced attorney in order to get more information regarding your rights and possible remedies for the injuries you suffered because of the use of Zoloft.