If this new drug is just the old, familiar Prozac, then why call it "Sarafem"? In its press release, Eli Lilly expressed the hope that the new trade name would "[reduce] confusion about the differences between depression and PMDD". However, Prozac has also been approved for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder and bulimia, and these additional indications were not accompanied by the introduction of a new trade name. By calling the drug "Sarafem" instead of "Prozac", perhaps Lilly hopes to increase the market for the drug by avoiding the stigma and other negative connotations of mental illness.
According to the Wall Street Journal, however, industry analysts do not expect Sarafem to have a significant impact on Prozac sales. If Sarafem were prescribed only for those 3%-5% of women who qualify for the diagnosis of PMDD, this might be the case. At present, Prozac is so widely prescribed, for even minor cases of depression, that in 1990, just three years after the drug came onto the market, the New York Times (December 3, 1993) referred to the rise of a "legal drug culture". Just as the anti-anxiety drug Valium (diazepam) attained wide popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, in 1994 Newsweek wrote that ‘Prozac has attained the familiarity of Kleenex and the social status of spring water" (February 7). Against this background, the substantial number of women who experience minor symptoms of PMS, even if they do not suffer from full-blown PMDD, promises to greatly enlarge market for a drug that is already the #2 best-selling drug in the world.
In addition, the patent protections on Prozac, which began in 1987 are about to run out. Marketing essentially the same drug (fluoxetine hydrochloride) under a new trade name effectively extends patent protections for another 14 years.