Sertraline, most commonly known under the brand name Zoloft marketed by Pfizer Inc. is an antidepressant drug of a class called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It was first introduced in 1991 and mainly given as treatment for major depression in adults, and for any patient with obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, or social anxiety disorder. Next to citalopram (brand name Celexa) and beating out fluoxetine (brand name Prozac), more than 37 million prescriptions for Zoloft were handed out in 2011.
Zoloft is considered to be equally if not more effective than other SSRIs for treating different types of depression. Studies indicate that it is efficacious in treating panic disorder but should be used in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy to make a dent in obsessive-compulsive disorder cases. Although approved for it, sertraline does not distinguish itself in treating posttraumatic stress disorder and social phobia. Overall, sertraline has fewer side effects that other medications in its class as well as older formulations, and the effects are generally milder.
As with other SSRIs, Zoloft also causes diarrhea, dry mouth, dizziness, persistent tinnitus, insomnia, nausea and sexual dysfunctions (difficulty in achieving sexual arousal, orgasm, or ejaculation) in some patients with similar profiles, although sertraline causes comparatively milder cognitive impairment, less somnolence and insignificant weight gain. However, suicidality is still a serious side effect of sertraline, with the at-risk population among the young (less than 25 years of age) and the elderly (past 65 years old).
Rather unique to sertraline is the risk of developing microscopic colitis (inflammation of the colon) which seems to be associated with the drug, though why this should be is unknown. Sixteen percent of cases in a clinical study yielded reports of short-term akathisia (inner restlessness and tension) which appeared at initial dosage and at dosage increase but which disappeared after a few days.