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Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms and Side Effects

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Cymbalta side effects can be minor or debilitating. People suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms may seek legal recourse against Eli Lilly, the manufacturer.

Elli Lilly first marketed Cymbalta as a treatment for depression, but it wasn’t long before doctors prescribed it for anxiety, muscle pain, stress urinary incontinence and even diabetic neuropathy. Before generic versions were approved and made it to market, the drug brought pharmaceutical companies Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim nearly $5 billion a year.
Patients took Cymbalta (duloxetine hydrochloride) without a full understanding of how difficult and harmful withdrawal from it can be. Former users provide accounts of debilitating brain zaps and also of experiencing suicidal thoughts. Withdrawal can disrupt one’s ability to work and some can require hospitalization. This significant danger, in addition to other potential side effects, suggests the risks of the medication may outweigh possible benefits. In 2009, the French medical journal Prescrire released findings of a study that concluded the drug’s risks outweighed its benefits because of these severe side effects. The study compared it to other treatments and medications for depression and anxiety and, and it recommended healthcare professionals avoid prescribing the drug altogether.

What Happens When You Stop Using Cymbalta

Cymbalta users experienced severe withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing use, including mood swings, neurological problems and brain zaps. Patients describe these zaps as excruciating headaches that occur alongside bouts of nausea and dizziness. Some are so severe that patients cannot go to work. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a name for these symptoms: Cymbalta discontinuation syndrome. According to data collected by the agency, more patients who stopped use of Cymbalta suffered from these sometimes debilitating effects than on other drugs in the same class.
Common symptoms of Cymbalta discontinuation syndrome include:
Paresthesia (brain zaps) Dizziness
Nightmares Nausea
Headache Fatigue
Vomiting Insomnia
Anxiety Vertigo
Irritability
In a 2009 assessment of the drug's warning label, the FDA found that Eli Lilly did not provide sufficient information to warn consumers of the severity of withdrawal symptoms. In fact, the label actually tells doctors to put patients back on Cymbalta if they have symptoms, and "continue decreasing the dose but at a more gradual rate." Some patients still reported severe symptoms even when being weaned off the drug. QuarterWatch, a non-profit reporting service for the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, also noted potential dangers. In the first quarter of 2012, it reviewed 48 FDA event reports of serious withdrawal symptoms ranging from appetite changes and blackouts to suicidal thoughts. The service found a disparity in warning communications reflecting the severity of these symptoms to users of the drug. Many cases necessitated hospitalization and some symptoms persisted weeks after drug discontinuation. 

Black Box Warning for Suicide Risk

Similar to other antidepressants, Cymbalta has a black-box warning about suicidal thoughts. A black-box warning is the FDA’s strongest, and the FDA requires manufacturers to include this warning in the labeling information for all SSRI and SNRI medications. The warning is primarily directed toward those who are taking the drug and either under age 24 or older than 65. Studies show these age groups are more susceptible to increased risk of suicidal behavior and thoughts. The drug is not approved for pediatric use. Some patients also report that discontinuing Cymbalta has led to developing suicidal thoughts. New users should be aware of these dangers when they receive prescriptions for Cymbalta.

Pregnancy Risk

Women taking Cymbalta for depression, SUI or other conditions should be aware of the danger of taking these drugs while pregnant. The drug is in the pregnancy risk category C, indicating that adverse effects occurred in testing of pregnant animals and the risk cannot be ruled out in humans. Pregnant women taking SSRIs and SNRIs face increased risks of complications. These complications include birth defects, such as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, which damages a newborn's lungs and heart, and anencephaly, a condition that impairs brain development. Both complications can result in newborn fatalities. Doctors used data from the Lilly Safety System and the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System to complete a safety surveillance report on Cymbalta and pregnancy. Looking at a record of 233 pregnancies, there were 90 with abnormal outcomes. These outcomes included 41 spontaneous abortions, 25 post/perinatal conditions and 19 premature births. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or may become pregnant during Cymbalta use. Breastfeeding while using the drug is not recommended.

Other Possible Side Effects

According to the National Library of Medicine, Cymbalta includes the following potential risks to users.
Common side effects include:
changes in sexual desire or ability constipation
decreased appetite diarrhea
difficulty urinating dizziness
drowsiness dry mouth
headache heartburn
increased urination muscle pain or cramps
nausea stomach pain
sweating or night sweats tiredness
uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body vomiting
weakness

Severe Side Effects of Cymbalta

  • Hepatotoxicity: Chemicals from the drug may cause liver damage. In some cases this had been fatal.
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome: This serious skin and mucous membrane disorder has occurred for some users.
  • Serotonin syndrome: The use of SSRIs and SNRIs can lead to this potentially fatal condition. Avoid taking another drug which increases serotonin levels during Cymbalta use.
  • Increased risk of mydriasis: Refers to dilation of the pupil. Not suitable for patients with uncontrolled narrow angle glaucoma
  • Drug interactions: These can be life-threatening when used with other CNS stimulants