Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine (Prozac, Eli Lilly), sertraline (Zoloft, Pfizer), and paroxetine (Paxil, GlaxoSmithKline) have dominated the market for the past 20 to 30 years and have remained the customary therapies for patients with PTSD, according to New York City-based psychiatrist Gauri Khurana, MD, MPH.

“I think there are other medications to treat [PTSD] that are effective, and for some reason, this isn’t galvanizing a lot of research interest,” Khurana told MD Mag. “The bigger moneymakers are in [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] or antipsychotics.”

Despite a general lack of research into new treatments for PTSD, the disorder has a significant and widespread impact. “It’s really common, and it can happen to anyone,” said Eric Altschuler, MD, PhD, associate chief and residency program director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City. “It’s really important we understand it.”

Approximately 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women twice as likely as men to develop the condition. About 3.6% of adults aged 18 to 54 years—or 5.2 million people—have PTSD during a given year, according to the Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Notwithstanding the proven prevalence of PTSD among various populations, little has been done to spur innovation for new therapies. According to Israel Liberzon, MD, a professor of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, SSRIs—specifically sertraline (approved in 1999) and paroxetine (approved in 2001)—are the only medications currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the specific treatment of PTSD.

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