It’s depressing when a drug with as many positive uses as Cymbalta (duloxetine) ends up creating more problems than it solves. So many, and to such severity, that it’s been given its own diagnosis title: Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome. Those with Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome often experience mental and physical suffering that lasts for several weeks.
Eli Lilly & Co., Cymbalta’s maker, got FDA approval in 2004 for treating depression. The FDA expanded its approval to include many other conditions, including: muscle pain, stress, anxiety, diabetic neuropathy and urinary incontinence. The most common use of Cymbalta is treating generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
Cymbalta belongs to a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) that affect brain chemicals, typically promoting mental stability. Cymbalta was the star of the SNRIs, working so well that Eli Lilly was bringing down $5B a year until generic versions hit the market.
As is the case with many stars, Cymbalta has a dark side, one that would ultimately bring it some very unpleasant scrutiny and public reaction. Upon completing treatment with Cymbalta, many patients found they had new problems that were almost as bad as their original conditions.
The following withdrawal symptoms have been reported:
- Severe Nausea
- Mood Swings
- Brain “Zaps” (electric-shock sensations in the brain)
- Paresthesia (tingling, tickling, prickling, pricking, or burning sensations on the skin)
This list, unfortunately, is not exhaustive. It’s also worth noting that cessation of treatment with any SNRI may cause such symptoms; however, the frequency, duration and severity of this particular form of Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome was so much greater that it warranted its own name.
In fact, experts claim that roughly 41% of patients using Cymbalta end up with Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome after ending its use. Roughly 46% of that group says their Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome is mild, while 17% say it’s severe.
Aside from the fact of Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome itself, the next severe problem is that the statistics on Cymbalta’s warning label assures users that such withdrawal symptoms are extremely rare, affecting only approximately 1% of users.
This “mistake” in labeling has brought Eli Lilly and its former star drug a host of problems. Medical professionals and patient watchdog groups are complaining in record numbers about the label’s inaccuracy and there have even been Cymbalta lawsuits.
This is another case where one must wonder: what data were Eli Lilly’s researchers looking at to arrive at such a low rate of occurrence of withdrawal issues? Was their sample size really so small that only about 1% of patients had problems when almost half of users experience Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome now that the drug is on the market?
File this under things that make you go “Hmmmm…”