Dozens of people who experienced severe antidepressant withdrawal after stopping Cymbalta (duloxetine) have filed lawsuits against Eli Lilly & Co. They accuse the drug-maker of failing to warn that at least 44-50% of patients experience withdrawal symptoms that may be debilitating and last for months.
Antidepressants are medications that influence emotions and personality by changing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Over time, the brain compensates by adjusting levels of neurotransmitters.
Patients who stop an antidepressant “cold turkey” may experience severe symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms don’t mean you are addicted. Instead, they mean you have an imbalance of mood-regulating chemicals in the brain.
These symptoms usually occur within days, but it may take several weeks (especially for drugs like Prozac). These symptoms generally go away over time, but they may include recurrent depression or anxiety that gets worse.
Symptoms of Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Excessive sweating
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Nightmares or vivid strange dreams
- Tremors (shaking hands or fingers)
- Problems coordinating muscle movements
- Irritation or agitation
- Angering easily
- Depression (recurrent)
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Abnormal sense of tingling, burning, pricking (paresthesia)
- “Brain zaps” or shivers (may feel like sudden, brief electric shock in the brain)
- Changes in hearing or ringing in the ears
- And more
What Can I Do to Ease Withdrawal Symptoms?
Never stop an antidepressant without consulting with a doctor. The protocol for discontinuing an antidepressant varies depending on what antidepressant you are on, what dose, how long you have been taking it, and your underlying medical condition.
You will probably need to gradually taper off the dosage in small increments every 2-6 weeks. During this time, it is a good idea to keep a journal of your moods every day. You will also need to be monitored by a doctor for recurrent depression and other symptoms of withdrawal.
For More Information:
- Going Off Antidepressants — Harvard Health Publications
Cymbalta and Withdrawal
Cymbalta (duloxetine) is a SNRI antidepressant made by Eli Lilly & Co. that has been on the market since 2004. When a patient stops taking Cymbalta, 50% is out of the body within 12 hours, and 99% is out within 2.5 days. Withdrawal usually starts when 90% of the drug is out of the body.
Eli Lilly is facing at least 28 lawsuits from people who say the Prescribing Information fails to warn about how severe withdrawal can be. In some cases, patients were forced to keep taking Cymbalta because the withdrawal symptoms were so bad — in other words, they were “hooked.”
The Prescribing Information states that withdrawal occurs in “greater than or equal to 1%” of patients. Technically, this is true — but Eli Lilly’s own clinical trials demonstrated that 44-50% of patients experienced withdrawal, 10% of cases were severe, and 54% of cases persisted after the 2-week monitoring period was over.
The actual rate of withdrawal may be even higher. In the trial, patients were given Cymbalta for only 8-9 weeks before they were switched to a placebo. In the real world, many patients take Cymbalta for months or years before attempting to discontinue the drug.