Prozac changed the world: But Scientologists criticized the new drug

April 16, 2002
By Rick Ross

Prozac changed the world by providing an effective way to help depressed people. Prozac also became Eli Lilly and Co.'s first multibillion-dollar drug. The Indianapolis based drug maker not only grew to meet demand, but also faced some controversy.

Clinical trials would later demonstrate that Prozac (20-milligram dose every day) worked on all patients tested. Lily, previously was largely a producer of antibiotics. They require much larger doses of 250 milligrams to 500 milligrams.

After its U.S. market launch of Prozac in early 1988, Lily prospered with first new class of antidepressant in 30 years. But by 1990 there was some controversy.

The Church of Scientology led an anti-Prozac campaign, claiming that Lilly was promoting a mood-altering drug that caused users to become violent. Executives of that company were even harassed through calls at their homes. And then came wrongful-death lawsuits against Lilly claiming the drug was to blame. Scientology says that it is the way to mental health and well-being. Therefore, not only Prozac, but virtually any prescribed drug for a mental disorder, would be antithetical to its teachings. Scientology has likewise campaigned against mental health professionals and the fields of psychiatry and psychology.

However, despite the Scientology's campaign in March 1990 Newsweek did a positive cover story about Prozac.

The effect of Prozac upon psychiatry has "been huge," said Dr. Andy Morrison, medical director of the St. Vincent Stress Center in Indianapolis. "Prozac's side effects are not nearly as severe as the tricyclics that preceded Prozac. The drug's relatively benign nature encouraged the mentally ill to be more willing to accept treatment," Morrison said.

Robert Postlethwait, a former president of Lilly's neuroscience product group said, "We were really making a difference in the world...It was unbelievable."

Notes: This article is based largely upon "Prozac's Impact on Indianapolis-Based Eli Lilly Felt in Variety of Ways" The Indianapolis Star/August 2, 2001

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