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Increased demand for anti-depressants causes shortage; experts say don't panic

3News Investigator Rachel Polansky found supply isn't always keeping up with demand – and that uncertainty is leading to drug shortages.

CLEVELAND — 2020 has been a challenging year for many of us, filled with stress and anxiety. Since the outbreak began, prescriptions for anti-depressants have surged over 30 percent.

3News Investigator Rachel Polansky found supply isn't always keeping up with demand – and that uncertainty is leading to drug shortages.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently added the popular antidepressant Zoloft to its drug shortage list

Whether you're living with depression or anxiety, or you’re worried about your kids’ mental health, COVID-19 has a lot of us looking inward.

“I was diagnosed at age 14 with depression disorder,” said Cicely Philpot. “I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder in my mid-30s. It’s really important to acknowledge what is going on with you.”

For Cicely Philpot, that meant upping her dosage of medication.

“Because it’s a physical change, it’s a major loss, there are major things going on. I absolutely have made adjustments with my medication,” said Philpot.

For others, it meant starting medication for the first time.

“Mental health disorders especially anxiety and depression have increased. We're seeing more cases, and more patients as well,” said Dr. Raman Marwaha, MetroHealth Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health.

The latest Census Bureau data backs him up, finding that nearly one-third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression.

“There's more and more people who are going out and seeking mental health care and more and more patients are being prescribed medications,” said Dr. Marwaha.

But 3News found that supply is not always keeping up with demand.

Since March, the FDA's drug shortage list has grown, revealing a 17-percent increase in drugs reported on shortage.

That list includes Zoloft, one of the most commonly prescribed anti-depressants.

“COVID-19 has introduced new demands and new pressures on the supply chain and the supply chain is adapting,” said Antonio Ciaccia, CEO of 46brooklyn Research.

But don't worry. Antonio Ciaccia studies trends in the pharmaceutical industry and he says the Zoloft shortage is not a panic situation.

3News Investigates also called around to Northeast Ohio pharmacies and health systems, and almost all of them reported an "adequate supply.”

What we are seeing though is higher prices.

“We are seeing the prices of generic Zoloft spiking considerably relative to its prior pricing history. That is an indication that we could be having meaningful shortage issues in the marketplace,” said Ciaccia.

As for those struggling with their mental health, experts say focus on the things you can control.

For example, you can’t control the number of COVID-19 cases in your city. You can take steps to reduce your own personal risk by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, avoid large gatherings and staying at home as much as possible.

And remember it’s okay to not be okay.

Reach out to your prescriber and come up with an action plan.

“There’s help, there’s counseling, there’s therapy, there’s medications, there’s all kinds of combinations of treatment,” said Dr. Marwaha.


Disaster Distress Helpline – Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Crisis Text Line – Text with a trained Crisis Counselor. Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

National Domestic Violence Hotline  – Call 1-800-799-7233.