The first Cymbalta withdrawal symptom case was decided in favor of Eli Lilly, the drug’s maker. The claim was that Eli Lilly did not adequately warn patients of the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms on cessation of the medication. Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms are far more common than Lilly reported, according to an FDA advisory committee. These symptoms include electrical sensations in the brain, known as brain zaps, as well as the feeling that things are crawling under the patients’ skin. The outcome of this trial may help determine the course of the remaining hundreds of Cymbalta withdrawal symptom cases.
The first of the 250 lawsuits against Big Pharma player Eli Lilly for failure to warn patients of the risk of Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms ended in a verdict for the drug manufacturer earlier this month. A jury heard the case of plaintiff Claudia H. who filed suit in 2013 claiming that she suffered severe Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms including extreme fear, suicidal thoughts, muscle spasms, brain zaps and the sensation of things crawling under her skin. The jury returned a defense verdict in less than a week.
Interested parties are waiting with bated breath for the next steps in this class action. The outcome of the first trial may help other plaintiffs and Eli Lilly determine how other juries will react in the remaining cases. Depending on how it goes, this may even lead to settlement talks with the other plaintiffs.
It seems to be time for movement in this particular Big Pharma nightmare. As the first Cymbalta withdrawal trial concluded, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is reconsidering consolidating hundreds of similar lawsuits into an MDL. The JPML denied the first request stating there simply weren’t enough cases to create a Cymbalta MDL. A group of plaintiffs recently filed a motion for reconsideration.
On the surface, Cymbalta seemed to be a wonder drug. Approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and nerve & musculoskeletal pain, the drug has generated over $18B in sales for Eli Lilly. Cymbalta helps balance moods through increasing the levels of the important neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and serotonin. It also helps stop pain signals, offering relief from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.
The issue is whether Lilly sufficiently warned patients of the risk of severe Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms. The warning label claims that Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms only happen when patients abruptly stop taking the drug. Even then, Lilly claims only 1% of patients stopping Cymbalta ever claimed any withdrawal symptoms.
This doesn’t jibe with the experience of the majority of patients. As much as 78% of those stopping Cymbalta use claim they suffered what has come to be known as Cymbalta Withdrawal Syndrome. Frighteningly, Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms can last weeks, even months, after patients stop taking the drug.
The list of Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms experienced reads like a horror novel:
- Brain zaps (electric-like shock sensations in the brain)
- Paresthesia (sensation of tingling, tickling, prickling, pricking, or burning of the skin)
- Mood swings
- Hot and cold flashes
- Severe nausea
As a fibromyalgia patient, I would honestly prefer dealing with the symptoms of my condition than risking Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms. In fact, I won’t take any of the “newer” classes of drugs for my fibro; I stick to those that have around for as long as I have.
An FDA advisory committee determined that Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms happen much more often than reported by Eli Lilly. To date, Lilly has yet to develop a safe protocol for Cymbalta discontinuation.
The best Lilly has come up with is the usual Big Pharma advice: slowly taper off Cymbalta. Easier said than done, considering that Lilly doesn’t make a lower dose of Cymbalta with which patients could do such tapering. Some Cymbalta users claim that they have been forced to break open the capsules in order to count the beads and create a self-designed smaller dose. The alternative is abruptly stopping the medication and risking Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms.
There were other cases scheduled for trial this month in California, but no information is yet available.