Eli Lilly Settles Cymbalta Withdrawal Lawsuits

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Reprinted with the kind permission of the National Pain Report and Donna Gregory Burch.
 
Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Company has quietly settled hundreds of personal injury lawsuits involving patients who claim they experienced withdrawal symptoms while quitting Cymbalta.
 
When asked for an update on the cases, Robin McCall, media relations director for Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, P.C., one of the firms handling the cases, wrote in an email, “All we can say is that the suit has been resolved.”
 
Lilly is also tight-lipped about the settlement, but provided the following written statement:
 
“Eli Lilly and Company has reached a comprehensive resolution of all personal injury lawsuits alleging symptoms from discontinuing Lilly’s medication, Cymbalta. Lilly has defended these cases vigorously and has won every case to reach a decision on the merits, including defense verdicts in every trial. To avoid continued legal costs, Lilly reached a resolution with plaintiffs in the remaining cases. Lilly remains committed to Cymbalta and its safety and benefits, which have been repeatedly affirmed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”
 
No additional details on the settlement were provided.
 
More than 200 patients were suing Lilly, claiming the drug maker didn’t fully disclose the severity of Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms. The plaintiffs in the cases said they experienced headaches, dizziness, nausea, nightmares, anxiety, mania, suicidal ideation, brain zaps (which feel like a lightning bolt going off inside the head) and other symptoms after they stopped taking Cymbalta.
 
Cymbalta is one of three drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia. It’s also used for depression, anxiety, diabetic neuropathy and certain kinds of chronic pain.
 
As early as 2005, research indicated a high rate of what medical professionals call “adverse events” when patients stopped taking Cymbalta. This Lilly study found that 44 percent of patients involved in several short-term trials had “adverse events” when they suddenly stopped taking duloxetine (the generic name for Cymbalta). The most common withdrawal symptoms cited were dizziness, nausea, headache, paresthesia (tingling/numbness, usually in the limbs), vomiting, irritability and nightmares. About 10 percent of these patients had “severe” withdrawal symptoms.
 
A longer and larger Lilly trial involving 1,279 patients found that 50 percent of patients experienced withdrawal symptoms.
 
The crux of Baum Hedlund’s case involved Lilly’s physicians’ prescribing guide for Cymbalta, which says 1 percent or more of patients discontinuing the drug may experience side effects including dizziness, headache, nausea, diarrhea, paresthesia, irritability, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, hyperhidrosis and fatigue.
 
While the “1 percent or greater” figure is technically accurate, Baum Hedlund argued it far understated Cymbalta’s true rate of withdrawal symptoms.
 
“The label gives the impression that withdrawal is a rare event (somewhere around 1 percent) when in fact it is common (at least 44-50 percent),” said Baum Hedlund in an earlier interview. “We think Lilly played with semantics and the system in choosing its wording – it chose wording to minimize the risk while at the same time using language such as “or greater” as a “CYA” [cover your ass] measure. We believe the label is misleading, plain and simple. The testimony of the prescribing doctors in these cases proves it – they believed the risk was rare.”
 
Despite the discrepancy, Baum Hedlund had been unsuccessful at convincing a judge or jury that Lilly knowingly misled doctors and patients. Four cases heard in various federal courts last year ended in Lilly’s favor.

The lawsuits may be settled, but Cymbalta users are still dealing with the fallout of the drug’s withdrawal symptoms. The design and dosages of Cymbalta’s capsules make it challenging for patients to wean off slowly over time. Capsules come in 20mg, 30mg and 60mg strengths, meaning patients sometimes have to cut their doses in half while weaning. For some patients, that’s just too much of a reduction at one time.
 
In desperation, some patients are quitting Cymbalta by dumping out the contents of the capsules and then counting the tiny balls every day in an effort to slowly reduce their dosage over time.


Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.
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24 thoughts on “Eli Lilly Settles Cymbalta Withdrawal Lawsuits”

  1. Consumer says:

    “To avoid continued legal costs, Lilly reached a resolution with plaintiffs in the remaining cases.”

    How incredibly noble of them.

  2. sailinggidget says:

    What about all the rest of us who went through hell, suffering horrible symptoms, trying to get off Cymbalta?

    I had to go off because Cymbalta made my lower legs & feet swell up like balloons. Could not walk or put on shoes; had to go to emergency room, because I could not get to my doctor. Legs swelling up so fast, I thought they were going to split open before I got to hospital.

    Needless to say, then I had almost all the horrible symptoms you mentioned in this article trying to ween off Cymbalta.

    My doctor thought it was just me, because I have multiple allergies & MCS. Neither of us knew at the time that this was happening to others.

    Is there anything I can do now, since this was settled according to your article?

  3. KMCB says:

    I suffered from extremely loud tinnitus while on Cymbalta and was taking 30 mg and went from 30 mg every other day to titrate down safely. I still suffer from tinnitus.

  4. JLG says:

    I experienced terrible withdrawal symptoms after stopping Cymbalta. I still have brain zaps after three years anytime I am extremely sleep deprived or take medications that affect pain, sleep, or emotions. I assume that my doctor was not informed of the risks since she let me go cold turkey by refusing to refill my prescription until I came in for an appointment but not allowing me an appointment for a week. I couldn’t work. I had extreme, sudden mood swings and increased pain. Doctors and patients need to be warned before prescribing or taking Cymbalta.

    1. Findrhonda says:

      When you go through these Brain Zaps does it sound like a train, when it sounds like Choo Choo, and at the same time you feel like your body just went into slow motion?

  5. katrink says:

    Unfortunately I’ve been unaware of the lawsuits. I AM grateful to my treasured Fibromyalgia Newsletter from Pro Health AND to Donna for the excellent article.

    I just want to attest that Cymbalta side effects certainly are very real and simply horrible!
    I had been taking Cymbalta (and still do) for quie a few years for my Fibromyalgia pain as well as for the depression that can and frequently does accompany it. I also have Degenerative Arthritis of the spine and
    osteoarthritis pretty much throughout my body, so have to take WAY too many other medications and supplements as well. So I use 7 day pill counter containers to set up my meds.

    The incident that involved Cymbalta was that I accidentally missed ‘setting up’ the Cymbalta in the pill counter and after maybe 2 or 3 days later, I was suddenly experiencing episodes of headaches, horrible overall body sensations, nightmares, irritability (so bad), nausea and worst of all of the sudden untoward
    symptoms of inappropriate crying jags and emotional outbursts! FINALLY my husband remarked
    wondering if I”d better have my Dr. revisit my medication plan. That was when I made the discovery that
    my Cymbalta was missing from the nightly handful of pills. (that I’m able to toss down ALL at once with a few swallows of buttermilk.) Yes, buttermilk. I found long ago that when swallowing multiple pills all at once , they
    go down super easy with ANY liquid other than water!

    However, there goes my error in not noticing that my Cymbalta was ‘missing’ in my nightly handsful of pills.
    As soon as I included Cymbalta once again the horrible symptoms of abruptly discontinuing it by accident started to subside. This proved to me that Cymbalta was NOT a medication to be stopped without tapering.
    Cymbalta continues to be my medication of choice because it is the very best, and at age 74, I’ve tried many others. It simply demands respect! Thanks for the opportunity to tell a long forgotten tale.

  6. NLT says:

    I took this medication for approximately a year and kept complaining to my physician about how exhausted I was and that I was so depressed I was sleeping for 12 hours straight. My physician basically balked at me said I was crazy and told me to stay on it. I like others broke the capsules open and counted out the medicine grains. It was an excruciating withdrawal that lasted around 6 weeks. When I told my physician what I had gone she became very angry that I would take it into my own hands. I literally felt like I was not goi g to survive if I stayed on the medication. So, no thanks to my physician or to Lily
    .for my pain and suffering. I now have a new physician.

  7. kimmedawn says:

    22 years ago I was given Prozac by a family doctor I’d just met, because I was trying to find the cause of recurring respiratory infections. (urgh..) But it gave me side effects like “Bipolar II” (hypomania), changing my personality, ruining my marriage, leading to suicide attempt. I knew I would never try to kill myself of my own accord. So I just stopped taking the Prozac. About 2-3 weeks later (around time with half-life of rx to get out of my system), it suddenly felt like I was struck by lightning & set on fire! The pain all over my body was horrific & unrelenting.

    I thought for sure it was just temporary withdrawal, but the pain never went away. It’s like Central Pain Syndrome, & through looking at research, I found a mechamism for how this could occur.

    I tried to get help, but no one would even believe Prozac would cause those side effects, let alone withrawal. In order to be able to work or function.. or live, I was forced to take the Prozac again, & the pain went away. However, I had to deal with being sort of “bipolar”.

    Eventually gabapentin balanced out these side effects, so I could work for a while. But the mechanism was still affecting rhings underneath, as I developed Fibromyalgia (& CFS/ME).

    I worked as long as I could, but I ended up then renting a home that had toxic mold & a slow carbon monoxide leak. The Prozac no longer helped the pain, & I’ve been literally tortured many times.

    Eli Lilly also makes Prozac. Actually when Cymbalta came out, Prozac’s patent was running out. I was told they just tweaked it a little & called it Cymbalta. But what really gets me is that I was so desperate to find a way to help or fix what happened that caused the pain, that I had written to the lead scientist working with Prozac. I’d practically begged for help. Heck, I even offered to help them with the side effects… pretty much offering myself up as a guinea pig. However I never received any reply. But when Cymbalta was released, they marketed it as being helpful for PAIN.

    Surely, this settlement for others… leaves me a little upset… but happy for those who actually did get help.

  8. DONNAI1210 says:

    I too should be in these lawsuits and should be compensated because I had the same dangerous side effects from taking Cymbalta and from withdrawal from this medication. I was taking 60mg x3 per day for Cymbalta and Lyrica when I had to stop because of horrible side effects plus my blood sugars kept dropping to dangerous levels. What’s worse are doctors that are still pushing this Med on patients, but I keep declining because Cymbalta and Lyrica never gave me any relief of Fibromyalgia pain. Who do I contact about this matter if anyone knows and can help??? Greatly appreciate it!!!

  9. alaskamarci says:

    I had a similar experience with Pamelor (nortriptyline – an antidepressant). I had to empty the capsules and reduce my amount taken at a very slow rate. It took me a year to get off the med and when I gave up the last little bit I still had withdrawal dyskinesia and had to get a med to counteract that. Lovely.

    Unfortunately, I was ultimately forced to go on a different med to mitigate depression. After about 10 years, that med is losing effectiveness in combating depression and the side effects are becoming more pronounced. I will have to go through the same process. It’s kind of hellish really…even if you are aware up front that this may be the case.

  10. dianeham says:

    I had a horrible withfrawal from it. Lickily I found a website of other patients who had the same experience. I finally got over the withdrawal but it was hell.

  11. GailC says:

    Like one of the posters before me, I too was unaware there had been a settlement with the Cymbalta issue. I took Cymbalta for a while and when I went off it, I was home, out of work, for 2 weeks. It caused such dizziness and nausea that I was in bed for 2 days, could not even sit up. Nothing I ate or drank would stay down. When I finally could stand and walk, I would walk off sideways! It was a very sick time for me. If anyone has any info on how I can be included, please let me know.

  12. emilycahan says:

    I would think that it is the prescribing doc’s responsibility to titrate doses in such a way as to avoid withdrawal symptoms for the patient. That’s what my doc did and I did not experience withdrawal symptoms.

  13. Lucilla says:

    I also had no idea about all the problems with this drug. I had a HORRIBLE time with Cymbalta that I was diagnosed by a Beverly Hills rheumatologist for my fibromyalgia. She later wanted to ADD Lyrica. I was having so many bodily problems, I wasn’t sure if it was my fibro or the cymbalta. She thought it was my fibro..I refused the lyrica.
    I now realize it was the cymbalta. I was on it just over 2 and a half years. I had speech problems, brain problems, could not string thoughts, remember what I was doing, remember best friend’s names, shakey leg, sweats, numbness in my extremities, morbid depression (as in if I wasn’t a single parent I would have killed myself), despair, total fatigue, irritable bowel, inability to sleep, or I’d sleep for 2 days, panic attacks, extreme nausea every day….I couldn’t take care of myself nor my son. He had to go and stay with his grandma, 10,000 miles away, overseas.
    I ran out of cymbalta once because of an insurance issue I hadn’t understood, and for 2 days was without it. I was shaking on the floor for a whole day, sweating fever, unable to do anything. I couldn’t call anyone, nor get to a doctor’s office.
    I remained on it another year, until February of this year when I had some massive fever, extreme fatigue, drenching sweats, inability to eat, and covered in red spots on my back for 3 weeks. I didn’t get out of bed for a week. During that time I couldn’t remember even if I’d taken my 60mg per day dosage of cymbalta, or “did I take one or two (of the 30’s)?”.. I really couldn’t remember, so I decided being as my body was sweating and detoxing so much that it was a good time to wean and stop. So I did.

    I now feel the best I’ve felt in 3 years of being on big pharma drugs. My ‘fibromyalgia’ symptoms of extreme numbness and tingling in legs, arms, uber-sensitivity being touched even by a blanket, my clothes, leaning on a wall; are gone. My brain is functioning again. I have fog days, tired days, achey days, but I keep away from stress as much as I can and stressed people. I don’t do junk food, soda or white bread ever, and I listen to my body as much as I can, and through mindfulness and gentleness I am able to get through each day.
    I now take ginseng, maca, ashwaganda, 5-HTP and I use essential oils – all when I remember, but the ginseng, maca and a multi -vit gets me through the day with energy, plus 3 cups of coffee….
    I still couldn’t go and be employed again (and I used to be the 6-figure workaholic who couldn’t sit still), however day by day I am re-inventing myself, with gentleness, because I have to. I am 51.
    Do not take cymbalta. Please. From this article and their non-actions they clearly do not care about you people nor your health. They just want to sell their drug at $500 a month. Who cares if you die? They don’t.

  14. Sk1957 says:

    I’ve been on Sertraline (zoloft) for about 15 years and it is virtually impossible to stop taking (at least for me). My doctor’s office laughed and said “oh it won’t kill you” when I expressed concern about withdrawal symptoms while attempting to get a refill when I had to switch providers. If I cut back on the dosage or try to stop taking it I get brain zaps, nausea, anxiety, cold sweats, insomnia, headaches, etc. I feel trapped into continuing to take it whether I need to or not and my doctors just don’t seem to understand.

  15. loisneverbethesame says:

    I took this devil drug for 6 years. I have Fibro, cfs, osteoarthritis, degenerative disks in neck and lower back, bursitis in both hips, tendinitis in both shoulders, myofacial pain in my back, type 2 diabetes, carpel tunnel in both hands, chronic nausea, deep depression, chronic anxiety so I was given the drug to help alleviate some of these problems.
    I suffered horrific side effects as you all know what they are. I had so many I had to stop taking the drug. I thought I suffered while taking it well, it was nothing compared to the withdrawal. I felt like running away from my body just to get some kind of relief but that was certainly not an option. The brain zaps were the worst of all they symptoms. Anyway I totally agree with others. Why can we not be compensated for all of our suffering and even after months of not taking the drug there are still symptoms. The worst being the brain zaps not to mention dizzy, brain fog, tinnitus, being irritable, can’t sleep, major pain, can’t adjust sugars, liver problems, can’t remember or talk properly. Words come out messed up. etc. etc. etc. as you all know and experience.
    Anyway I totally agree with others: Why are we not being compensated for how this devil drug has messed our lives totally.

  16. Findrhonda says:

    I’m glad that someone acknowledges the withdrawal symptoms. I was told by several doctors that “Cymbalta has no withdrawal symptoms”, very upsetting when I was going through them at the time. Good luck with your endeavors.

  17. Robertaglick says:

    Once again, those of us sufffering with chronic, unrelenting pain become victims of Big Pharma and the laws, regulations, etc. that support the pharmaceutical industry even when experiential evidence points the the fact that information is withheld. That as a result many of us, relying on published data, found ourselves in a situation that exacerbated the pain we already endured. It doesn’t seem that patients are protected or supported in any way. We pay outlandish prices for medications like Cymbalta that, in the end do more harm than good. Then, we try to end our relationship with a medication whose side effects are unacceptable only to discover that withdrawing, even under inpatient medical supervision, creates horrendous, long lasting side effects including hallucinations, nerve pain, etc. it took me 8 months to stop experiencing a myriad of issues caused by Cymbalta. I am not alone. And yet, the courts side with Eli Lilly. How is it that the paltry individual settlements are not seen for what they are? A legally sanctioned way to provide ” hush” money and go on marketing and selling Cymbalta? When did it become OK for patients to become victims? Can anyone tell me that?

  18. elmo1102 says:

    Started on 60mg twice a day for Fibromyalgia. Then the side effects started. Severe headaches, Twitching, Arm & Leg Jerking, Fingers numb. Dr. Reduced me down to 60mg once a day then the Hell started withdrawal was more severe than side effects. Migraines, Nausea, Stomach Cramps, Severe Constipation, Eyes Twitching, Electric Shock like going through my Body, Light Headed to the extreme that I felt like I was going to pass out. So Nauseous it was like I was always on the verge of vomiting constantly. I hate this drug with all my being. If anyone out there is told they need to go on Cymbalta. THINK TWICE ABOUT IT. IT’S NOT WORTH ALL THIS BELIEVE ME. I JUST WISH I KNEW ABOUT LAWSUIT BECAUSE I FOR ONE WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRST IN LINE. THIS DRUG AND DRUG COMPANY RUINED MY LIFE FOREVER.
    THANKS ELI LILLY. I HOPE ALL THE MONEY YOU MADE OFF OF US, MADE YOU PROUD OF YOUR DRUG. YOU HAVE DESTROYED ALOT OF PEOPLE INCLUDING ME.
    THANKS

  19. KMCB says:

    Is there anyone here who takes Savella? I stopped taking Cymbalta because of tinnitus which I still have. I take Flexeral rx’s by my rheumatologist but I still have pain and fog.

  20. Justsettled says:

    I settle this week. Signed my last paperwork. What should I expect for settlement? Baum and Hedlund handled my case, but I never asked them what I would receive. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I mostly wanted to stop the sale of the drug, which is why I looked into it to begin with. It never did anything constructive for me and the withdrawel was absurd. I think I asked them in an email once but they never answered my question. They just said there would be three tiers based on how strong your case was. I think my case is fairly strong. I ran out waiting for mail order scripts to arrive. They ended up being about 10 days late. The brain zaps, audio hallucinations, and suicidal ideations were the worst of it. Still get some of the effects from time to time. Day 5 cold turkey was the worst, and when I tapered off it was still rough.

  21. bettian says:

    I was told not to post anything about Cymbalta but I have been e-mailed from my lawyer that it will be maybe till end of February to even find out how much and that there is over 6000 defendants yes six thousand. lawyer said settlement will not be anything life changing. Oh I never would expect that but do not want to be insulted with a very low settlement. So I wait still. Oh I still have trouble copping with what happened to me. I have changed doctors and to my surprise the new doctor wanted to put me back on Cymbalta. WOW I said you don’t understand what I have been through. So now I take nothing for my problems and live with it, That is so much better than what I have gone through. My thought is just wait and do not expect more than say your electric bill.

  22. Parthina says:

    Wish it had been a Class Action Lawsuit. You can bet I would have signed up. I never read this though and from November 2016 until February 2017 I suffered so bad I could not walk out of the house and yes I was withdrawing from Cymbalta. I chose to go off on my own. I did not feel better with it and had to keep going up and up so since I had to have an anti-anxiety added I finally had enough. How very Lame that many/all sufferers were not taken into account. Lost 3 months of work and basically my life from not being able to be around anyone , talk on the phone or much of anything. Oh well, I really learned my lesson.

  23. Parthina says:

    I have, on my own, chosen to go to more natural eating and other forms of treatment. I just feel that yes each and every drug prescribed to people can and normally do have side effects. They are normally studied and tested for years for the FDA approval, BUT and yes that’s a big BUT, when 13 drugs or so prescribed each with a side effect hits your stomach or system, they cannot ever predict with the extreme mixing of all the different chemicals and reaction to many different people what may happen in the 5-10-or 15 years you are kept on them, or trying others. Yes, I know the words “you just have to keep trying til you get the right cocktail” But personally over the years, I find each time when I am on so many and gain weight and unable to move more that they are not for me. Of course, I know the dangers of mixing some natural, over the counter chemicals in other forms. I still would rather eat and know that I am better with those!! Take care all.

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