Doctors write about 2.4 billion prescriptions every year. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), about 118 million of these prescriptions are for anti-depressant drugs, making these, therefore, the third most prescribed type of medication in the US. NCHS records also show that between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008, use of antidepressants increased by almost 400 percent.
Psychiatrists will agree that anti-depressant drugs should be prescribed to people with severe illnesses or severe cases of depression, but definitely not to those suffering only from mild attacks. Psychiatrists, however, are not the only ones discovered to be prescribing antidepressants: doctors also prescribe it, but to millions of Americans who should not be using the it.
Rather than as medication to treat to stress, anxiety or sadness, these doctors prescribe antidepressants to people for off-label use, that is, use not approved for by the US Food and Drug Administration. These include off-label treatment of insomnia, pain, headache and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is due to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS); some doctors even recommend antidepressants to help people quit smoking.
One antidepressant that has been written on about 30 million prescriptions is Zoloft (sertraline chloride). Zoloft was originally manufactured for those in the United Kingdom, where it was given the brand name Lustral. Zoloft belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) family of antidepressant drugs. SSRIs, which control the level of serotonin in the brain and which affect an individual’s learning, sleeping and mood patterns, have been prescribed to patients to control their mental illnesses, such as depression. Specifically, the drug has been used as a treatment for major depressive disorders (MDD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Side-effects, however, are being linked to Zoloft. Besides causing suicidal thoughts or seizures, the worst effect of Zoloft is serious birth defects; this happens when this drug is given to pregnant women or those expecting (or planning) to becoming pregnant soon.
A law firm website named Williams Kherkher says that a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on June 28, 2007 revealed that maternal use of Zoloft was associated with different neural tube defects (NTD), including anencephaly, a deadly birth defect that affects one out of more than 4,000 babies every year.
At least 250 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits were filed in a federal court in Philadelphia alone as of June 2014. With the millions of prescriptions made of Zoloft, lawyers still anticipate an increase in the number of lawsuits from mothers whose babies have been affected by the harmful drug.