Newspaper article International New York Times

Kenneth Koe, Co-Creator of Antidepressant Zoloft, Dies at 90

Newspaper article International New York Times

Kenneth Koe, Co-Creator of Antidepressant Zoloft, Dies at 90

Article excerpt

Mr. Koe, a chemist at Pfizer, helped create the antidepressant that has helped treat more than 100 million people and has generated sales of more than $3 billion.

Kenneth Koe, an inventor of Zoloft, the antidepressant that has helped tens of millions of people since it was introduced a quarter- century ago, died on Oct. 7 in Shrewsbury, Mass. He was 90.

His death was announced by his alma mater, Reed College, in Portland, Ore.

A chemist who spent four decades on the staff of Pfizer, Dr. Koe developed Zoloft, known generically as sertraline hydrochloride, with his colleague Willard Welch. One of the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- compounds that emerged in the late 20th century to treat depression, anxiety and related disorders -- Zoloft became, with its fellow class member Prozac, among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world.

More than 100 million people have been treated with Zoloft since 1991, when it was brought to market in the United States. In 2005, the year before it became available as a generic, worldwide sales of Zoloft totaled more than $3 billion. (Prozac, first marketed in the late 1980s, became available generically in 2001.)

In 2005, Science magazine included Zoloft on its list of 19 "blockbuster" drugs. That list, comprising drugs that had generated revenue of $2 billion or more in the preceding year, also included Lipitor, which lowers cholesterol; the nonsteroidal anti- inflammatory Celebrex, prescribed for arthritis; and the antacid Nexium.

Zoloft, whose side effects can include nausea, reduced sexual desire and, in young people, increased suicidal thoughts or behavior, is also prescribed for conditions including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

The son of Benjamin and Monta Jean Koe, immigrants from China, Dr. …

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