Cymbalta, generic name duloxetine, has long been a big seller for drug manufacturer Eli Lilly. It is used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, fibromyalgia, and diabetic nerve pain. While it has been shown to be effective in treating depression, the first condition for which it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are some serious problems with Cymbalta. Lawsuits have been filed by patients who suffered from serious side effects, including a withdrawal syndrome.
How Cymbalta Works
Cymbalta belongs to a class of antidepressants called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs. Serotonin and norepinephrine are two natural neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are signaling molecules that are absorbed by nerve cells to send messages to other cells and other parts of the body.
An SNRI medication like Cymbalta blocks the absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine, changing the chemical signals in the brain. This results in more of the two neurotransmitters being available. Both are associated with elevated mood. The effect is that the person taking the medication experiences a boost in mood. Other SNRIs include Effexor and Pristiq.
What Can Be Treated with Cymbalta?
Cymbalta was originally approved by the FDA to treat depression because it is a mood booster. Depression is a serious mental health condition that is characterized by persistent and long-lasting feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthless ness, and guilt. People with depression may also have physical symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and changes in sleeping patterns. Cymbalta can help boost the mood of someone struggling with this condition, but also those plagued with anxiety. It may take several weeks for the drug to take effect.
After being approved for depression and anxiety, the FDA also approved Cymbalta for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, a kind of nerve pain that is caused by nerve damage. It can also treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by pain and fatigue. It is thought that Cymbalta can treat these conditions because the serotonin and norepinephrine block pain signals in the brain. Less commonly, Cymbalta may be used to treat other kinds of pain. It has not been approved to treat stress-related urinary incontinence, but it may be effective for this condition and some doctors may prescribe it for their patients.
Most commonly Cymbalta causes mild side effects that are not serious. These include excessive sweating, dizziness, nausea, and dry mouth. Other fairly common side effects that are possible include vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, difficulty urinating, decreased appetite, headaches, weakness, drowsiness, muscle cramps, and decreased sexual ability.
All antidepressants come with a serious warning about the use in children and young adults and the possible side effect of suicidal thoughts or other thoughts of self-harm. This is not common, but it is possible in patients under the age of 24. Children under the age of 18 should not be prescribed Cymbalta, unless a doctor believes it is the best option for treatment.
It is essential that patients in this age group, and their parents or other loved ones, know about the risks and can watch for the signs. These include any thoughts of harming yourself, agitation, panic attacks, irritability, aggression, extreme worry, restlessness, mania, impulsivity, and any other behavioral changes that seem out of character.
Another serious concern with taking Cymbalta, for patients of any age, is the risk of a condition called discontinuation syndrome. This occurs when a patient suddenly stops taking the medication. Cymbalta should never be stopped without the guidance of a doctor. Without gradual weaning from the drug, serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms may occur. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, diarrhea, headache, a burning sensation or numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, insomnia, irritability, sweating, and nightmares.
Some people who have suddenly stopped using Cymbalta have also reported a strange and upsetting symptom, often called a brain zap. They describe it as feeling imbalanced, having a feeling like an electric shock in the brain, being dizzy, agitated, and confused. Exactly why these sensory disturbances happen is unknown, but they can be very uncomfortable.
Cymbalta has been a popular medication since it first came on the market. Before the patent ran out and generic forms of the medicine came out, Eli Lilly saw sales of around $5 billion per year for Cymbalta. As a generic and brand name drug, duloxetine continues to be popular in spite of some of the very serious problems it can cause in patients.
Warnings about suicidal thoughts and withdrawal symptoms have long been part of the labeling information on Cymbalta, but some patients do not believe they were adequately warned about the possible consequences of using and stopping use of the drug. A class action suit was filed against Eli Lilly in 2012 for those patients whose suicides were blamed on the drug. Another class action suit representing patients who suffered with discontinuation has also been filed. Neither of these has yet been resolved.
If you have taken Cymbalta or someone you love has taken this medication and suffered the consequences of serious and even life-threatening side effects, you may have a case against Eli Lilly. Whether you are the family member of a young person who committed suicide while on Cymbalta or you experienced serious and debilitating withdrawal symptoms form the drug, you deserve monetary compensation and a lawsuit may be the best and most effective way to get it.