Antidepressant Cymbalta Helps Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

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By Elizabeth Querna

Fibromyalgia affects between 3 and 6 percent of the population, mainly women, causing chronic pain all over the body as well as headaches, fatigue, and other complications. It is still not well understood, though studies have linked the disease to abnormal amounts of the chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, which are also associated with depression. Some researchers from the University of Cincinnati and other places wondered if drugs that are used for depression could also help fibromyalgia patients.

What the researchers wanted to know: Does Cymbalta, an antidepressant with the generic name duloxetine, help patients with fibromyalgia? What they did: The researchers recruited about 200 patients from around the country and split them into two equal groups. One group received Cymbalta for 12 weeks, and the other group received a placebo for the same amount of time. Participants completed several questionnaires to measure the amount of pain and discomfort the disease caused them at the beginning of the study, and then at the end of each of the first two weeks and every second week for the remaining 12 weeks of the study. Researchers also tested the participants for depression.

What they found: Women who took Cymbalta had significantly less pain and discomfort than those who took the placebo. For men, who made up only 11 percent of the study, there was no effect from taking the medication compared with a placebo. Depression played no part in whether or not the drug worked to control pain. The change in the level of women's pain was particularly pronounced after a month of taking the drug, then leveled off a bit before dropping again near the end of the study.

What it means to you: Cymbalta could be a good therapy for people suffering from fibromyalgia. Because the disease is not well understood, no one knows the best way to treat it or why certain drugs work and others don't. Other antidepressants, including Prozac, Elavil, and Endep, have also been shown to reduce symptoms of the disease, so those types of drugs may become a standard treatment.

Caveats: In most tests, Cymbalta improved the score of participants. However, in one of the primary measures of pain there was no significant difference between the two groups at the end of the 12-week trial. Also, because the trial lasted only 12 weeks, it is impossible to tell how well the drug would control treatment for a longer period of time. Lastly, the primary researcher on the project has received more than $10,000 in consulting fees from Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Cymbalta, and other researchers also have ties to the company.

Reference: Arnold, L.M. et al. "A Double-Blind, Multicenter Trial Comparing Duloxetine With Placebo in the Treatment of Fibromyalgia Patients With or Without Major Depressive Disorder." Arthritis and Rheumatism. September 2004, Vol. 50, No. 9, pp. 2974–2984. Source: U.S. News & World Report

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4 thoughts on “Antidepressant Cymbalta Helps Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms?”

  1. jbarnett says:

    I take cymbalta on a daily basis, when I was first given the prescription I thought ok, my doctor must think I am a lunatic and thought I must just be depressed, but it really helps me with the manageablility of pain….I told him I wasnt depressed, and he agreed, he said depression is not only a mental status, but a physical one as well, and that my body was depressed (physically). I thought ok kinda makes sense….he was right. I went from 1800mg (plus) daily of Ibuprophen, to just one 60mg pill of cymbalta…will it work forever, who knows. I am just glad to be pain free 90% of the time.

    1. jbarnett says:

      Have you had your thyroid and parathyroid checked? They also found a tumor (non canerous) on one of parathyroids…when that was removed I was less tired all the time….Have you heard of the new medication for fibromyalgia? I cant remember the name but it seems like it is strictly for FM patients…I would love to know if this really works. My brother who is a occupational and massage therapist told me about a woman that was in so much pain from FM started with massage therapy and over time found great relief….I am not as bad as the woman he was treating but I do know others that would greatly benefit and I have suggested that to them as well….You mentioned something about reflux disease, did you ever have a problem with that before? I get to worst bouts of indegestion and find myself eating a container of tums at times, maybe its time for me to lay off the ibuprohen.I however am glad that they finally have a name for what we suffer from…I was tired of my now ex-husband thinking I was a chronic complainer and hypochondriac.

  2. calhawaiigirl says:

    I have had FM for at least 20 years. They had a different name for it in the beginning. I can’t remember what they gave me at first but in the 90s I took Elavil a lot. It helped me but I hated that hangover affect it gave me. Half the day was gone by the time the drug wore off. I started taking a lot of Acetamenophen and Ibuprophen and ended up with reflux disease. I took Celebrex for years but it didn’t really help me. I started taking Cymbalta around January of last year. My pain is at least half of what it was. I can actually function somewhat. However, I am still struggling with chronic fatigue.

  3. calhawaiigirl says:

    Hi There, I had my thyroid ablated in 2003 due to Grave’s Disease. So, my thyroid is a mess. It bounces all the time. I am on 0.162 of Levothyroxine. Also, I was actually diagnosed with reflux in the 80s as well. I was just so busy with five boys that I didn’t have time to deal with my problems. That said, I was in the doctor’s office on a regular basis but they just treated the symptoms. I have bouts of Interstitial Cystitis. I have osteoarthritis and osteoporosis as well as many other health problems so I never really know for sure which disease is acting up.

    I know that massage helps but I am on disability and can’t afford it. I eat really healthy and try to exercise five times per week also. I am really trying to do my part to get better but I haven’t figured out what causes my FM to flare. I am going to see my doctor Friday and I will ask her about meds for fatigue. I am willing to try just about anything, although I prefer natural cures.

    If you take Ibuprophen I suggest you make sure to have something in your stomach. I sympathize with you regarding your ex. Because I didn’t just lie in bed I don’t think anyone realized how ill I was…and still don’t. I don’t look as ill as I am so they just don’t believe it. I had always been a very active person so it is hard for me to be debilitated.

    Best wishes to you. Take care.

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