TEXT ON SCREEN: December 29, 19871
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS, 9-1-94): CONNIE CHUNG: Its the hottest psychiatric drug in history.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS): DAN RATHER: Prozac.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, NIGHTLINE, 3-17-94): REPORTER: Prozac. The wonder drug that works wonders
NARRATION: At the end of 1987, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a new anti-depressantand Prozac hit the American market.
Advertising and word of mouth helped boost the drugs reputation and Prozac became the it drug of the 1990s.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS, 9-1-94):REPORTER: Models in the latest fashions are said to look Prozac deprived.
NARRATION: Before long, the name was on everyones tongue.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 60 MINUTES, 11-21-04): JIM CARREY: I was on Prozac for a long time.
NARRATION: And, it seemed, everyone was using it.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, EVENING NEWS, 9-1-94): REPORTER: Six million Americans using Prozac right now.
NARRATION: The greater the drugs popularity, the more it seemed to symbolize.
DAVID HERZBERG (HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR, HAPPY PILLS IN AMERICA): Prozac moves from being a successfully launched pharmaceutical product, to being a true cultural celebrity.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 9-1-94): DAVID LETTERMAN: You know its the holiday season in New York City when the drug dealers are selling more Prozac than crack.
NARRATION: So, how did this little pill become the icon of an era?
PROZAC: REVOLUTION IN A CAPSULE:
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 7-27-90): REPORTER: For people who suffer depression, its been hailed as a virtual miracle.
NARRATION: Almost immediately after Prozacs launch, it was clear that it offered a promising alternative to available treatments for depression.
PETER KRAMER (PSYCHIATRIST AND AUTHOR, LISTENING TO PROZAC): I started giving it to difficult patients. Patients who hadnt done well somewhere elseand people thought, I could get help with something Ive lived with for years.
NARRATION: The drug was an enormous medical breakthrough. Prozac emerged as a pioneer in a new category of drugs called SSRIs that targeted one chemical in the brain serotonin – instead of many.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 9-23-97): REPORTER: It plays a crucial role in mood, appetite and many other brain functions.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 9-20-91): REPORTER: Many anti-depressive drugs have severe side effects. It was largely a lack of those problems that has persuaded doctors to prescribe Prozac to 2 million Americans.
NARRATION: One of those was student Elizabeth Wurtzel.
ELIZABETH WURTZEL (AUTHOR, PROZAC NATION): I had been on other medications before that didnt work nearly so well, but it really changed everything. There was one morning when I woke up, and I felt like the idea of being alive didnt seem so awful. It was an amazing turnaround.
NARRATION: The drug led her to break the historical taboo about depression and write a book about hers.
ELIZABETH WURTZEL: I knew it was pretty safe to tell the story because I knew a lot of people would relate to it. I think thats what I was betting on. If I wrote it, it would make people feel better.
NARRATION: Wurtzel quickly became the Generation X face of the drug.
ARCHIVAL (MOVIE PROZAC NATION, 2001): It seems like everyones doctor is dealing this stuff now.
NARRATION: But Wurtzels book was not the only one that captured the public imagination. Psychiatrist and author Peter Kramer wrote his from the perspective of the treating physician.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 1-4-94): DR. PETER KRAMER: People who do well on it may say this is my real self. The transformation is not away from the self but towards some ideal self.
NARRATION: He then went on to speculate about how Prozac might change us in ways never before expected.
PETER KRAMER: I thought, what will happen if we can do this with people who have never been depressed, you know, if you could put someone on the medicine and he or she would become more socially adept. And I coined a term, Cosmetic Psychopharmacology where the analogy was cosmetic surgery. So a medical procedure done for something other than treating illness.
NARRATION: Kramers narrative about Prozac being able to change peoples essential selves took hold.
ARCHIVAL: (ABC NEWS, 1-4-94): REPORTER: Many claim that it transforms them, makes them more calm, confident, more productivesomehow better than well. GOLF PROFESSIONAL: Ive found that taking this drug I became a different person.
NARRATION: But it wasnt just the promise of a personal metamorphosis that made Prozac a household name.
ARCHIVAL (MOVIE MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, 1993): WOODY ALLEN: Theres nothing wrong with you that cant be cured with a little Prozac and a polo mallet.
ARCHIVAL (MUSIC VIDEO FROM BLUR, MTV, 1995): Hes reading Balzac and knocking back Prozac. Its a helping hand that makes you feel..
ARCHIVAL (THE SOPRANOS, HBO, 1-10-99): TONY SOPRANO: Here we go. Here comes the Prozac.
NARRATION: Prozacs popularity wasnt just the result of a medical breakthrough, but also of a marketing one.
DAVID HERZBERG: Prozacs marketing helped popularize the idea that our moods are neurochemical and that there are things we can do to change them.
R. JOHN FIDELINO (EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, INTERBRAND HEALTH 1996-present): Prozac took the mystery out of the science. It talked about how the drug worked.
NARRATION: Another way the drugs benefits were sold to the public was through its name. Eli Lily hired branding agency, Interbrand, to come up with a memorable one.
R. JOHN FIDELINO: Prozac has two syllables. The first syllable P-R-O was designed to suggest professional. The A-C is designed to communicate activity, coupled with the Z, it just sounds much more powerful, and more effective as a name.
NARRATION: But it wasnt just the name that gave Prozac a leg up.
DAVID HERZBERG: One of the first places that news about Prozac appears is in popular financial magazines, things that are reporting on its potential blockbuster status, how its going to make a ton of money for its producers and its kind of creates this buzz.
PETER KRAMER: It was remarkable. I mean the New York Magazine had this pill on its cover. I dont think anything like that had happened before.
NARRATION: As media coverage of the drug grew, stories about a possible link to suicide began to circulate. In 1991, the FDA convened hearings on the issue.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 9-20-91): PROZAC PATIENT: I finally admitted myself to a stress center. I begged them lock me up because Im going to die and I dont want to die.
NARRATION: No conclusive link was found and the sale of Prozac continued.
PETER KRAMER: This medicine had the career arc of a celebrity. That it was sort of over-hyped and then demonized and, you know, trying to find its level through the press.
ARCHIVAL (ABC News, 1-4-94): REPORTER: Ever since Prozac was introduced five years ago, it has developed what amounts to a cult following.
NARRATION: Before long, as other SSRIs began to eat away at Eli Lillys market share, Prozac ads began appearing in general interest magazines rather than just medical journals, targeting patients, particularly women, instead of just their doctors. And commercials ran on TV for the first time.
R. JOHN FIDELINO: People wanted to control, they wanted to talk about their successes, their personal successes. And Prozac spoke to that.
ARCHIVAL (PROZAC AD): Talk to your doctor today.
NARRATION: And it also introduced something new for sale.
Since the 1950s, consumer goods like cars and washing machines had become symbols of success and happiness. Now there was something else.
DAVID HERZBERG: Prozac is saying that happiness, itself is available for purchase and can be one of these things that defines what it means to be in America and have that American dream.
NARRATION: And the more people who claimed their share of it, the better Eli Lillys bottom line.
In 2001, with the patent set to expire, they launched a new drug for a new problem.
ARCHIVAL (NBC, 6-15-01): Sarafem is not really a new drug. Its just a new name for the popular anti-depressant Prozac.now repackaged with a distinctly feminine look. Some accuse the drug manufacturer of trying to create a new market for Prozac by grossly exaggerating premenstrual problems.
ARCHIVAL (SARAFEM AD): Do you think its PMS? Did you take my keys? Maybe its PMDD.
NARRATION: Soon the airwaves were full of ads for other drugs promising to treat problems we didnt know we had.
ARCHIVAL (REQUIP AD):I have restless leg syndrome.
ARCHIVAL (LATISSE AD): Latisse, the first and only FDA approved prescription treatment for inadequate or not enough lashes. Your lashes actually grow.
DAVID HERZBERG: You do have a whole bunch of new pharmaceuticals coming out to enable people to do things that they like to do so to be able to eat a bunch of cheeseburgers
ARCHIVAL (PRILOSEC AD, 8-13-00): Time to see your doctor about Americas most prescribed acid control medicine.
DAVID HERZBERG: .or to be able to have sex, you have drugs like Viagra coming out. These are responding to genuine human needs and desires, but those needs and desires hadnt always been configured as illnesses the way they were during and after the Prozac era.
PETER KRAMER: I think Prozac made people very aware of the possibility that medicines were going to step out of their bounds and be used by people who maybe had some quality that wasnt rewarded socially to move to some state that was better socially rewarded.