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Sarafem Side Effects Center

Medical Editor: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

Last reviewed on RxList 01/31/2017

Sarafem (fluoxetine hydrochloride) Tablets is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Sarafem is available in generic form. Common side effects of Sarafem include:

Tell your doctor if you have unlikely but serious side effects of Sarafem including:

  • unusual or severe mental/mood changes (such as agitation, unusual high energy or excitement, thoughts of suicide),
  • easy bruising or bleeding,
  • muscle weakness or spasm,
  • shakiness (tremor),
  • decreased interest in sex,
  • changes in sexual ability,
  • unusual weight loss, or
  • large pupils.

The recommended dosage of Sarafem is 20 mg a day. Alprazolam, clopidogrel, clozapine, flecainide, haloperidol, phenytoin, tryptophan, vinblastine, imipramine, and warfarin may interact with Sarafem. Tell your doctor all medications you take. Do not drive, use machinery, or do other activity requiring full alertness after using Sarafem. Avoid alcohol while taking Sarafem. If you are pregnant only take Sarafem if the potential benefit outweighs the potential risk to the fetus. Do not take Sarafem if you are breastfeeding.

Our Sarafem (fluoxetine hydrochloride) Tablets Side Effects Drug Center provides a comprehensive view of available drug information on the potential side effects when taking this medication.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What is Patient Information in Detail?

Easy-to-read and understand detailed drug information and pill images for the patient or caregiver from Cerner Multum.

Sarafem in Detail - Patient Information: Side Effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: skin rash or hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: mood or behavior changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, or if you feel impulsive, irritable, agitated, hostile, aggressive, restless, hyperactive (mentally or physically), more depressed, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself.

Call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • very stiff (rigid) muscles, high fever, sweating, fast or uneven heartbeats, tremors, overactive reflexes;
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, feeling unsteady, loss of coordination;
  • headache, trouble concentrating, memory problems, weakness, confusion, hallucinations, fainting, seizure, shallow breathing or breathing that stops; or
  • severe skin reaction -- fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • cold symptoms such as stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat;
  • drowsiness, dizziness, feeling nervous;
  • mild nausea, upset stomach, constipation;
  • increased appetite, weight changes;
  • sleep problems (insomnia);
  • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm; or
  • dry mouth.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the entire detailed patient monograph for Sarafem (Fluoxetine Hydrochloride)

What is Patient Information Overview?

A concise overview of the drug for the patient or caregiver from First DataBank.

Sarafem Overview - Patient Information: Side Effects

SIDE EFFECTS: See also Warning section.

Nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, anxiety, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, tiredness, sweating, or yawning may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, tell your doctor promptly.

Remember that your doctor has prescribed this medication because he or she has judged that the benefit to you is greater than the risk of side effects. Many people using this medication do not have serious side effects.

Tell your doctor right away if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: unusual or severe mental/mood changes (such as agitation, unusual high energy/excitement, thoughts of suicide), easy bruising/bleeding, muscle weakness/spasm, shakiness (tremor), decreased interest in sex, changes in sexual ability, unusual weight loss, large pupils.

Get medical help right away if you have any very serious side effects, including: bloody/black/tarry stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, fast/irregular heartbeat, fainting, seizures, change in amount of urine, eye pain/swelling/redness, vision changes (such as seeing rainbows around lights at night, blurred vision).

If you have diabetes, fluoxetine may affect your blood sugar levels. Monitor your blood sugar regularly and share the results with your doctor. Your doctor may need to adjust your medication, diet, and exercise when you start or stop fluoxetine.

This medication may increase serotonin and rarely cause a very serious condition called serotonin syndrome/toxicity. The risk increases if you are also taking other drugs that increase serotonin, so tell your doctor or pharmacist of all the drugs you take (see Drug Interactions section). Get medical help right away if you develop some of the following symptoms: fast heartbeat, hallucinations, loss of coordination, severe dizziness, severe nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, twitching muscles, unexplained fever, unusual agitation/restlessness.

Rarely, males may have a painful or prolonged erection lasting 4 or more hours. If this occurs, stop using this drug and get medical help right away, or permanent problems could occur.

A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, trouble breathing.

This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

In the US -

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

In Canada - Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Read the entire patient information overview for Sarafem (Fluoxetine Hydrochloride)

What is Prescribing information?

The FDA package insert formatted in easy-to-find categories for health professionals and clinicians.

Sarafem FDA Prescribing Information: Side Effects
(Adverse Reactions)


Clinical Trials Experience

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect or predict the rates observed in practice.

Multiple doses of fluoxetine have been administered to 10,782 patients with various diagnoses in US clinical trials. Adverse reactions were recorded by clinical investigators using descriptive terminology of their own choosing. Consequently, it is not possible to provide a meaningful estimate of the proportion of individuals experiencing adverse reactions without first grouping similar types of reactions into a limited (that is, reduced) number of standardized reaction categories.

In the tables and tabulations that follow, COSTART Dictionary terminology has been used to classify reported adverse reactions. The stated frequencies represent the proportion of individuals who experienced, at least once, a treatment-emergent adverse reaction of the type listed. A reaction was considered treatment-emergent if it occurred for the first time or worsened while receiving therapy following baseline evaluation. It is important to emphasize that reactions reported during therapy were not necessarily caused by it.

The prescriber should be aware that the figures in the tables and tabulations cannot be used to predict the incidence of side effects in the course of usual medical practice where patient characteristics and other factors differ from those that prevailed in the clinical trials. Similarly, the cited frequencies cannot be compared with figures obtained from other clinical investigations involving different treatments, uses, and investigators. The cited figures, however, do provide the prescribing physician with some basis for estimating the relative contribution of drug and non drug factors to the side effect incidence rate in the population studied.

Incidence In Placebo-controlled PMDD Clinical Trials

In 1 of 3 placebo-controlled, continuous-dosing trials and 1 placebo-controlled, intermittent-dosing trial of fluoxetine in PMDD, treatment-emergent adverse reactions reporting rates were assessed. The information contained in Table 5 enumerates the most common treatment-emergent adverse reactions associated with the use of SARAFEM 20 mg (incidence of at least 5% for SARAFEM 20 mg and greater than placebo) for the treatment of PMDD and is based on data from the continuous-dosing trial at the recommended dose of SARAFEM (SARAFEM 20 mg, N = 104; placebo, N = 108) and data from the intermittent-dosing trial of fluoxetine in PMDD (SARAFEM 20 mg, N = 86; placebo, N = 88).

Table 5: Most Common Treatment-Emergent Adverse Reactions : Incidence in PMDD Placebo- Controlled Clinical Trials

Body System/Adverse Reaction* Percentage of Patients Reporting Adverse Reaction
SARAFEM 20 mg/day Continuously
(N = 104)
SARAFEM 20 mg/day Intermittently
(N = 86)
Placebo (Pooled)
(N = 196)
Body as a Whole
  Headache 13 15 11
  Asthenia 12 8 4
  Pain 9 3 7
  Accidental injury 8 1 5
  Infection 7 0 3
  Flu syndrome 12 3 7
Digestive System
  Nausea 13 9 6
  Diarrhea 6 2 6
Nervous System
  Insomnia 9 10 7
  Dizziness 7 2 3
  Nervousness 7 3 3
  Thinking abnormal† 6 5 0
  Libido decreased 3 9 1
Respiratory System
  Rhinitis 23 16 15
  Pharyngitis 10 6 5
*Included in the table are adverse reactions reported by at least 5% of patients taking SARAFEM 20 mg either continuously or intermittently. For additional adverse reaction terms referenced in Warnings and Precautions, reporting rates for SARAFEM 20 mg continuous and intermittent were, respectively: anxiety 4 .8%, 1.2% and anorexia 3.8%, 3.5%.
†Thinking abnormal is the COSTART term that captures concentration difficulties.

Incidence In US Depression, OCD, And Bulimia Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials (Excluding Data From Extensions Of Trials)

Table 6 enumerates the most common treatment-emergent adverse reactions associated with the use of fluoxetine up to 80 mg (incidence of at least 2% for fluoxetine and greater than placebo) in female patients ages 18 to 45 years from US placebo-controlled clinical trials in the treatment of depression, OCD, and bulimia.

Table 6: Treatment-Emergent Adverse Reactions : Incidence in Female Patients Ages 18 to 45 Years in Depress ion, OCD, and Bulimia Placebo-Controlled US Clinical Trials

Body System/Adverse Reaction* Percentage of Patients Reporting Adverse Reaction
(N = 1145)
(N = 553)
Body as a Whole
  Headache 24 21
  Asthenia 14 6
  Flu syndrome 7 3
  Abdominal pain 6 5
  Accidental injury 4 3
  Fever 3 2
Cardiovascular System
  Palpitation 3 2
  Vasodilatation 3 1
Digestive System
  Nausea 27 11
  Anorexia 11 4
  Dry mouth 11 8
  Diarrhea 10 7
  Dyspepsia 7 5
  Constipation 5 3
  Vomiting 3 2
Metabolic and Nutritional Disorders
  Weight loss 3 1
Nervous System
  Insomnia 24 11
  Nervousness 14 10
  Anxiety 13 9
  Somnolence 13 6
  Tremor 12 1
  Dizziness 11 5
  Libido decreased 4 1
  Abnormal dreams 3 2
  Thinking abnormal 3 2
Respiratory System
  Pharyngitis 6 5
  Yawn 5 --
Skin and Appendages Skin and Subcutaneous Tissue Disorders
  Sweating 8 3
  Rash 5 3
Special Senses
  Abnormal vision 3 1
Urogenital System
  Urinary frequency 2 1
*Included are reactions reported by at least 2% of patients taking fluoxetine, except the following adverse reactions, which had an incidence on placebo greater than fluoxetine (depression, OCD, and bulimia combined): back pain, cough increased, depression (includes suicidal thoughts), dysmenorrhea, flatulence, infection, myalgia, pain, pruritus, rhinitis, sinusitis.
†Thinking abnormal is the COSTART term that captures concentration difficulties. Incidence less than 0.5%.

Adverse Reactions Associated With Discontinuation In Two Placebo-Controlled PMDD Clinical Trials

In a continuous-dosing PMDD placebo-controlled trial, the most common adverse reaction (incidence at least 2% for SARAFEM 20 mg and greater than placebo) associated with discontinuation was nausea (3% for SARAFEM 20 mg, N = 104 and 1% for placebo, N = 108). In an intermittent-dosing placebo controlled trial, no reactions associated with discontinuation reached an incidence of 2% for SARAFEM 20 mg. In these clinical trials, more than one reaction may have been recorded as the cause of discontinuation.

Adverse Reactions Associated With Discontinuation In Depression, OCD, And Bulimia Placebo-Controlled Us Clinical Trials (Excluding Data From Extensions Of Trials)

In female patients age 18 to 45 years in US depression, OCD, and bulimia placebo-controlled clinical trials combined, which collected a single primary reaction associated with discontinuation (incidence at least 1% for fluoxetine and at least twice that for placebo), insomnia (1%, N = 561) was the only reaction reported.

Female Sexual Dysfunction With SSRIs

Although changes in sexual desire, sexual performance, and sexual satisfaction often occur as manifestations of a mood-related disorder, they may also be a consequence of pharmacologic treatment. In particular, some evidence suggests that SSRIs can cause such untoward sexual experiences. Reliable estimates of the incidence and severity of untoward experiences involving sexual desire, performance, and satisfaction are difficult to obtain, however, in part because patients and physicians may be reluctant to discuss them. Accordingly, estimates of the incidence of untoward sexual experience and performance, cited in product labeling, are likely to underestimate their actual incidence. For example, in women (age 18 to 45) receiving fluoxetine for indications other than PMDD, decreased libido was seen at an incidence of 4% for fluoxetine compared with 1% for placebo. There have been spontaneous reports in women (age 18 to 45) taking fluoxetine for indications other than PMDD of orgasmic dysfunction, including anorgasmia.

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies examining sexual dysfunction with fluoxetine treatment. While it is difficult to know the precise risk of sexual dysfunction associated with the use of SSRIs, physicians should routinely inquire about such possible side effects.

Other Reactions

Following is a list of all treatment-emergent adverse reactions reported at anytime by females and males taking fluoxetine in all US clinical trials for conditions other than PMDD as of May 8, 1995 (10,782 patients) except (1) those listed in the body or footnotes of Tables 1 or 5 above or elsewhere in labeling; (2) those for which the COSTART terms were uninformative or misleading; (3) those adverse reactions for which a causal relationship to fluoxetine use was considered remote; (4) adverse reactions occurring in only 1 patient treated with fluoxetine and which did not have a substantial probability of being acutely life-threatening; and (5) adverse reactions that could only occur in males.

Adverse reactions are classified within body system categories using the following definitions: Frequent adverse reactions are defined as those occurring on one or more occasions in at least 1/100 patients; Infrequent adverse reactions are those occurring in 1/100 to 1/1000 patients; rare adverse reactions are those occurring in less than 1/1000 patients.

Body as a Whole - Frequent: chest pain and chills; Infrequent: face edema, intentional overdose, malaise, pelvic pain, suicide attempt; Rare: acute abdominal syndrome, hypothermia, intentional injury, photosensitivity reaction.

Cardiovascular System - Frequent: hypertension; Infrequent: angina pectoris, arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, hypotension, migraine, myocardial infarct, postural hypotension, syncope, vascular headache; Rare: bradycardia, cerebral embolism, cerebral ischemia, extrasystoles, heart block, pallor, peripheral vascular disorder, phlebitis, shock, thrombophlebitis, thrombosis, vasospasm, ventricular arrhythmia, ventricular extrasystoles, ventricular fibrillation.

Digestive System - Frequent: increased appetite; Infrequent: aphthous stomatitis, cholelithiasis, colitis, dysphagia, eructation, esophagitis, gastritis, gastroenteritis, glossitis, gum hemorrhage, hyperchlorhydria, increased salivation, liver function tests abnormal, melena, mouth ulceration, stomach ulcer, stomatitis, thirst; Rare: biliary pain, bloody diarrhea, cholecystitis, duodenal ulcer, enteritis, esophageal ulcer, fecal incontinence, hepatitis, intestinal obstruction, liver fatty deposit, pancreatitis, peptic ulcer, salivary gland enlargement, tongue edema.

Endocrine System - Infrequent: hypothyroidism; Rare: diabetic acidosis, diabetes mellitus.

Hemic and Lymphatic System - Infrequent: anemia, ecchymosis; Rare: blood dyscrasia, hypochromic anemia, leukopenia, lymphedema, lymphocytosis, petechia, purpura, thrombocythemia.

Metabolic and Nutritional -Infrequent: dehydration, generalized edema, gout, hypercholesteremia, hyperlipemia, hypokalemia, peripheral edema; Rare: alcohol intolerance, alkaline phosphatase increased, BUN increased, creatine phosphokinase increased, hyperkalemia, hyperuricemia, hypocalcemia, iron deficiency anemia, SGPT increased.

Musculoskeletal System - Infrequent: arthritis, bone pain, bursitis, leg cramps, tenosynovitis; Rare: arthrosis, chondrodystrophy, myasthenia, myopathy, myositis, osteomyelitis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis.

Nervous System - Frequent: amnesia, emotional lability, paresthesia, and sleep disorder; Infrequent: abnormal gait, acute brain syndrome, akathisia, apathy, ataxia, buccoglossal syndrome, CNS depression, CNS stimulation, depersonalization, euphoria, hostility, hyperkinesia, hypertonia, hypesthesia, incoordination, libido increased, myoclonus, neuralgia, neuropathy, neurosis, paranoid reaction, personality disorder1, psychosis, vertigo; Rare: abnormal electroencephalogram, antisocial reaction, circumoral paresthesia, delusions, dysarthria, dystonia, extrapyramidal syndrome, foot drop, hyperesthesia, neuritis, paralysis, reflexes decreased, stupor.

Respiratory System - Infrequent: asthma, epistaxis, hiccup, hyperventilation; Rare: apnea, atelectasis, cough decreased, emphysema, hemoptysis, hypoventilation, hypoxia, larynx edema, lung edema, pneumothorax, stridor.

Skin and Appendages - Infrequent: acne, alopecia, contact dermatitis, eczema, maculopapular rash, skin discoloration, skin ulcer; Rare: furunculosis, herpes zoster, hirsutism, psoriasis, purpuric rash, seborrhea.

Special Senses - Frequent: ear pain, taste perversion, tinnitus; Infrequent: conjunctivitis, dry eyes, mydriasis, photophobia; Rare: blepharitis, deafness, diplopia, exophthalmos, glaucoma, hyperacusis, iritis, parosmia, scleritis, strabismus, taste loss, visual field defect.

Urogenital System - Infrequent: abortion2, albuminuria, amenorrhea , anorgasmia, breast enlargement, breast pain, cystitis, dysuria, female lactation2, fibrocystic breast2, hematuria, leukorrhea2, menorrhagia2, metrorrhagia2, nocturia, polyuria, urinary incontinence, urinary retention, urinary urgency, vaginal hemorrhage2; Rare: breast engorgement, glycosuria, hypomenorrhea , kidney pain, oliguria, uterine hemorrhage2, uterine fibroids enlarged2.

1Personality disorder is the COSTART term for designating non-aggressive objectionable behavior.
2Adjusted for gender.

Postmarketing Experience

The following adverse reactions have been identified during post approval use of fluoxetine. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is difficult to reliably estimate their frequency or evaluate a causal relationship to drug exposure.

Voluntary reports of adverse reactions temporally associated with fluoxetine that have been received since market introduction and that may have no causal relationship with the drug include the following: aplastic anemia, atrial fibrillation1, cataract, cerebrovascular accident1, cholestatic jaundice, dyskinesia (including, for example, a case of buccal-lingual-masticatory syndrome with involuntary tongue protrusion reported to develop in a 77-year-old female after 5 weeks of fluoxetine therapy and which completely resolved over the next few months following drug discontinuation), eosinophilic pneumonia1, epidermal necrolysis, erythema multiforme, erythema nodosum, exfoliative dermatitis, gynecomastia, heart arrest1, hepatic failure/necrosis, hyperprolactinemia, hypoglycemia, mmunerelated hemolytic anemia, kidney failure, movement disorders developing in patients with risk factors including drugs associated with such reactions and worsening of pre-existing movement disorders, optic neuritis, pancreatitis1, pancytopenia, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary hypertension, QT prolongation, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, thrombocytopenia1, thrombocytopenic purpura, ventricular tachycardia (including torsades de pointes-type arrhythmias), vaginal bleeding, and violent behaviors .

1These terms represent serious adverse reactions, but do not meet the definition for adverse drug reactions. They are included here because of their seriousness.

Read the entire FDA prescribing information for Sarafem (Fluoxetine Hydrochloride)

Sarafem - User Reviews

Sarafem User Reviews

Now you can gain knowledge and insight about a drug treatment with Patient Discussions.

Here is a collection of user reviews for the medication Sarafem sorted by most helpful. Patient Discussions FAQs

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration


You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

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