Harvard Mental Health Letter

Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers

Q. I've been taking Zoloft. Recently, my pharmacist filled my prescription with a generic form of the drug. Does the brand name matter?

A. The patent expired on Zoloft, one of the popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, in June 2006. Now many patients are switching to — or starting with — a less expensive form of the drug that bears its generic (chemical) name, sertraline. Some wonder whether this could cause problems — or whether it will make any difference at all.

A few years ago, a patient of mine noticed some changes when he exchanged his brand-name antidepressant Celexa for the generic form, citalopram. For the next month or two, he felt slightly apathetic and made some mistakes that caused him mild embarrassment. That can happen when the dose of an antidepressant is too high. But he feared that he would relapse if he reduced the dose, so instead he decided to return to the brand-name drug.

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