Generic Zoloft® is an antidepressant, more properly known by its chemical name, sertraline hydrochloride. The first major trade name of sertraline was Pfizer’s Zoloft®, which is why the chemical is still often referred to as generic Zoloft®, even if it is not produced by Pfizer. Generally, in the modern world, drugs are developed by a pharmaceutical company, which then purchases a patent for it, and produces the drug under a trade name. Because they hold an exclusive patent, they are often able to make a large profit over their production costs. In this case, Pfizer’s patent expired in 2006, allowing generic Zoloft® to be produced by other manufacturers at a much lower cost.
Sertaline functions as an effective antidepressant, with a similar effect to earlier tricyclic drugs, but without many of the negative side effects those drugs have. The differences between generic Zoloft® and other generic antidepressants, such as generic Prozac®, are fairly minor. In some cases, one drug may be more effective, in others it may be less effective, and side effects may vary from situation to situation, and from patient to patient. As such, it is difficult to say whether any single modern antidepressant is “better” than another, and many patients try multiple drugs before settling on a single one.
As with many antidepressants, there is some apparent link between taking generic Zoloft® and an increased rate of suicide. Because this increase seems to be quite slight, however, it is difficulty to say whether it is statistically significant. As a result, it remains a matter of contention whether sertaline, or any other modern antidepressants, do in fact trigger suicide.
Sertaline may be prescribed for a wide range of mental illnesses in addition to depression, including posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. In many treatments sertaline performs just slightly better than a placebo, but because the side effects are relatively minor, and complications are rare, it is nonetheless prescribed frequently. Even in cases where other options may be available, many patients opt for generic Zoloft® because of the large body of research surrounding it, and the familiarity with the trade name.
Side effects from taking sertaline include nausea, insomnia, dizziness, tremors, diarrhea, a decreased libido, and a failure to ejaculate. Of these, only nausea, insomnia, and diarrhea tend to cause patients to stop taking the drug with any frequency. People just starting to take sertaline often also report akathisia, which is the inability to stay still, but this usually can be corrected by reducing the dose. This correction is important, however, as it is believed that the connection between many antidepressants and suicide is directly linked to akathisia.
Patients taking sertaline are strongly recommended to reduce their dosage over a period of time before stopping treatment altogether. Patients who simply stop taking sertaline may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including bad dreams, bouts of rage, random crying, headaches, prolonged anxiety, nervousness, and dizziness. It is suggested that patients on sertaline consult with a psychiatrist before changing their dosage, to avoid these negative effects.