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Depression health centre

Fluoxetine (Prozac)

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for children and young people with depression. It tells you about fluoxetine (Prozac), a treatment used for children with depression. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Does it work?

Yes. Fluoxetine can help some children and teenagers with bad depression feel better. But there's a serious risk of side effects.

Fluoxetine belongs to a group of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are a newer type of antidepressant drug. Fluoxetine is the SSRI that research shows works well and is safest for young people.

Doctors don't usually give antidepressants to people under the age of 18, and especially not to children under the age of 12. But they might recommend fluoxetine if your child's depression is bad or if talking treatments ( psychotherapy) haven't worked.

Your doctor should only prescribe fluoxetine combined with a talking treatment. For teenagers with lots of symptoms (moderate or severe depression), combining fluoxetine with a talking treatment called cognitive behaviour therapy may be best.

What is it?

Fluoxetine is a type of antidepressant drug called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are a newer type of drug used to treat depression. The brand name for fluoxetine is Prozac. Most people take it as tablets or capsules once a day, but it is also available as a liquid.

Doctors in the UK are advised that fluoxetine is the only antidepressant that has been approved for use in children with depression, and usually the only antidepressant suitable for people younger than 18. Often fluoxetine is used alongside cognitive behaviour therapy.To learn more, see Fluoxetine plus cognitive behaviour therapy.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published guidelines on treating depression in young people. (NICE is the government body that decides which treatments should be available on the NHS.) Here's what NICE says about giving antidepressants to young people. [3]

  • Children aged 5 years to 11 years should be given antidepressants only very rarely.

  • Teenagers aged 12 to 18 years should be given antidepressants only if a talking treatment doesn't work on its own or if they have bad depression.

NICE says that doctors should only give fluoxetine along with a talking treatment (such as cognitive behaviour therapy) because combined treatment is safer. [3]

NICE also says doctors can sometimes prescribe a different SSRI (such as sertraline or citalopram) if fluoxetine doesn't work. But these other drugs aren't used very often. [3]

Children and teenagers should never be given paroxetine (an SSRI) or venlafaxine (a drug that is similar to SSRIs). [3]

To read more, see NICE guidelines on depression in children and teenagers.

Last Updated: March 13, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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