10.23.2015

The Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits: An interview with the attorneys

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The Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits: An interview with the attorneys | FedUpwithFatigue.com

This is Part 2 of an ongoing series on the Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits. It includes an interview with Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC, one of the law firms representing hundreds of patients who have been affected by Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms. Part 1 of this series addressed Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms, why the lawsuits were brought and helpful information for anyone planning to stop Cymbalta. Part 3 is a timeline of the lawsuits. 

As always, I’ll post any news related to the lawsuits in my weekly news updates. To make things easy, I’ve created a page dedicated to the lawsuits where you’ll find all of FedUpwithFatigue’s Cymbalta posts, links to national media stories and other useful information. I’ll be covering these lawsuits as they unfold. Please consider subscribing (there are forms at the top of the page and the bottom of this post) to receive the latest updates.

Update 10/25/16: The Cymbalta lawsuits have been settled. Click here for details. 

After I posted Part 1 of this series, I was shocked by the number of comments and emails that I received from people who had experienced Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms. Based on the feedback, it’s obvious this issue has affected thousands within the fibromyalgia community (and others since Cymbalta is used for various conditions).

More than 200 patients are currently suing Eli Lilly & Company, claiming the drugmaker didn’t fully disclose the severity of Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms. The plaintiffs in the cases say 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.

First, a little background …

As early as 2005, research indicated a high rate of what medical professionals call “adverse events” when patients stopped taking Cymbalta. This Eli 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 Eli Lilly trial involving 1,279 patients found that 51 percent of patients experienced withdrawal symptoms.

Given the high percentage (44 percent and 51 percent, respectively) of patients who reported withdrawal symptoms during these two trials, prescribing physicians should be aware of this issue and be more conscientious about weaning patients off very slowly to minimize withdrawal as much as possible.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case, and there’s a good reason why so many physicians seem to be uninformed about Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms. If you pull up the physicians’ prescribing guide for Cymbalta on Eli Lilly’s website and read the section entitled “discontinuation of treatment with Cymbalta,” here’s what it says: “Following abrupt or tapered discontinuation in adult placebo-controlled clinical trials, the following symptoms occurred at 1 percent or greater and at a significantly higher rate in Cymbalta-treated patients compared to those discontinuing from placebo: dizziness, headache, nausea, diarrhea, paresthesia, irritability, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, hyperhidrosis and fatigue.”

Did you catch that?

The Eli Lilly studies say these symptoms happen in 44-51 percent of patients, but Cymbalta’s prescribing guide says they occur in “1 percent or greater” of patients. Well, Eli Lilly is TECHNICALLY correct when it says “1 percent or greater,” but if the company was being transparent, shouldn’t it have included the 44-51 percent figures in its prescribing guide? Wouldn’t that have helped physicians to be more careful when patients were coming off of Cymbalta?

The two Eli Lilly trials and Cymbalta’s prescribing guide are the crux of the legal action now being heard in various federal courts.

And now, the interview …

Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC, a personal injury and wrongful death law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles, among others, generously agreed to answer a few questions about the pending lawsuits. My questions are in italics, and the firm’s responses are in regular text.

Can you give some background on how you came to learn about the issues with Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms and why you decided to move forward with a lawsuit?

We began investigating issues related to Cymbalta withdrawal because there were so many complaints by consumers on the internet. We discovered that Lilly’s own clinical trials revealed the risk of suffering from withdrawal is much higher than the label suggests. We decided to move forward with the lawsuits because of the volume of consumers complaining about withdrawal.

How many plaintiffs do you have taking part in the lawsuit at this point? What are their general complaints? Are any of them still having health issues as a result of taking Cymbalta?

There are currently 44 cases involving 249 individual plaintiffs pending in federal courts across the country. In addition, there are more than 100 cases pending in a coordinated proceeding in California state court in Los Angeles. There are thousands of cases in the pipeline for filing. For the most part, people suffering from withdrawal seem to eventually recover fully, however, some do report residual symptoms, and some have actually committed suicide while withdrawing from Cymbalta.

Eli Lilly’s physician prescribing guide indicates Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms occur in “1 percent or more” of patients, which is technically correct. Eli Lilly’s own research says these withdrawal effects occur in 44-51 percent of patients. Is that a sticking point in your argument? Shouldn’t Eli Lilly have been more forthcoming about the number of patients affected, since there is a big discrepancy between “1 percent or more” and “44-51 percent”?

That is our argument in these cases. 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). 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.

EL has prevailed in the cases that have gone to court so far. Were you surprised by these outcomes?

We were disappointed by the outcome of the cases, but not necessarily surprised. Each case has its own fact pattern, and some cases are more difficult than others. For instance, in some cases, the plaintiff did not seek medical assistance when withdrawing from Cymbalta, and we believe that could have played a big role in the jury’s decision. Some blame the doctor for not catching Lilly’s semantic game. Some agree with Lilly that the label is “technically correct,” so it is “adequate,” which to some means “good enough.”

I just read that 60+ plaintiffs’ cases have been moved to Indiana, Eli Lilly’s home state, but there are lots of cases that haven’t been moved yet. Do you think eventually all of the cases will be combined to make the legal process easier?

We expect additional cases may be transferred to Indiana, but that remains to be seen. An additional attempt to consolidate into an MDL [multidistrict litigation] was recently denied, so we are currently considering our options. The consolidated proceeding in California should help and will likely be where many future cases are filed.

What’s next? 

The next trial is not scheduled until late next year. We intend to use that time to conduct further discovery and fine-tune the cases for future success.

Update 10/25/16: The Cymbalta cases have been settled, and Baum Hedlund is no longer accepting new plaintiffs. Click here for details on the settlement. 

Have you been affected by Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below. 

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Comments

  1. Rosemarie says:

    So many horrifying stories. I was on Cymbalta for 3 years, the only reason I even agreed to take it was because it was used for pain, and IBS. I hated that it was a antidepressant, for the 1st four years of my chronic illness, the Dr.s said I was just depressed, it’s all in my head. But I knew that I wasn’t depressed. When I was finally diagnosed correctly, and medicated correctly, at least to the point that I stopped ending up at the ER 3-4 times a month. I am still in a lot of pain, I live my daily life at no less than an 8, plus the fog, and exhaustion, the numb hands, feet, legs make it hard to do the simplest of tasks. Anyway, after 3 yrs of taking Cymbalta, I thought why am I taking it when it doesn’t help at all. It is true that if I was even late taking it at my regular time, it made me feel weird. sort of dizzy, but more like I was outside my body, but it wasn’t that bad, just weird. I was afraid of going off of it. Then one day I just stopped cold turkey. The only withdrawal I had, was I felt that weird feeling for 2 or 3 weeks. Idk, maybe because I’ve never been addicted to anything before. I have in the past taken Opioids, like Oxy, Valium, Percocet… etc, for months at a time for pain, and I had no trouble just stopping them either. I feel such sympathy for all of the commenters here. It’s sheer hell to have chronic severe pain, but to have such bad withdrawal from something that is supposed to help is horrifying.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

      So glad you were able to get off of Cymbalta w/o having a lot of negative effects. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Robin Van Lente says:

    After taking Cymbalta for nearly 8 years, I had to stop taking it–my husband lost his job, and we lost insurance coverage. There was no way I could afford it. I talked at length to my psychiatrist about my fear of coming off of it. I told her that there had been times when–if I missed ONE DOSE–I felt dizzy, nauseated, and the “brain zaps” made me feel like I was going to pass out.
    She didn’t seem to be too concerned, and gave me two weeks samples. She said to start taking one every other day for a week, then every two days for a week. This was while she was starting me back on Wellbutrin, which I’d taken previously without problems.
    The days to follow were nothing short of a nightmare! I stayed dizzy, brain zaps kept me anxious and distracted, sleep was out of the question. After a week , I called in tears. The receptionist told me to email my concerns, and they would be passed on to my Dr. (This was their policy for communication, and actually really a good one–except in an emergency situation!)
    When she called me back, she told me to open the capsules, sprinkle out some of the beads, and try to wean off slower. I had to drive an hour one way to pick up more samples.
    This weaning process took over FOUR MONTHS–meanwhile, I continued taking the Wellbutrin, but it wasn’t working. I had extreme rage issues, and could cry at the drop of a dime. My nerves were completely shot.
    I talked to my pain management Dr, who was more sympathetic to the situation. He took me off the Wellbutrin, gave me Zoloft, and told me to stay on it while slowly decreasing the amount of “beads” in each dose of Cymbalta.
    When I returned to the psychiatrist, and talked to her about what the other Dr had done–she was Pissed! Mind you, they were in agreement to treat me as a team. She took me off the Zoloft, and put me on a “new medication with little/no side effects,” per her words.
    This only opened a whole new level of side effects! Extreme fatigue, confusion, and Panic Attacks! Add the effects of tapering off the Cymbalta—I was pretty much out of commission, and on the verge of suicide. I ended up Firing the psychiatrist, and my pain management MD is managing all of my fibromyalgia-related issues!
    I’m a nurse… And the seven months of pure hell I survived, well–I wouldn’t wish that on anyone! It affected my job performance, but I never missed a shift. Thankfully, I’ve got a wonderful employer, and they were very supportive of me during this period.
    I won’t be happy until this DRUG OF HELL is taken off the market!!! My life has never been the same, and I blame it all on this Drug!
    So many people taking it have said they have no problem with it… And my response to them? I just Pray you never have to be weaned off of it!!! I hope the attorneys involved with the cases against EliLilly are able to get justice for everyone who has been affected by this Horrible Drug!!!

  3. Crystal says:

    Wow, glad I found this article! I had been on 60mg of Cymbalta for over a year, but when I lost my job and insurance I couldn’t afford it. The sliding scale clinic I went to switched me to Venlafaxine, and I never had a chance to taper off of Cymbalta. Within the course of a month, I was extremely suicidal, and had most the symptoms listed here and was vomiting bile. The clinic stopped my venlafaxine and is having me come in every could weeks for monitoring. My pain and nausea has been bad, but I’m determined to detox from all the meds and try natural remedies and therapies for awhile since I will be married soon and want to try to get pregnant. If even possible with Fibromyalgia…..

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

      Sorry to hear that you had such a tough time of coming off Cymbalta. Too many doctors aren’t aware of the high rate of withdrawal. I keep hearing from patients who have suffered a great deal b/c they weren’t tapered off properly. I’m currently doing an all natural protocol that’s helped more than the traditional meds I was prescribed initially. Here’s a link in case you’re interested: https://fedupwithfatigue.com/personal-journey/i-think-im-getting-better/

  4. Renee Rico says:

    Wow, after reading this article, I now understand why I am feeling the way I am. The fatigue is so bad. I am thinking that this so-called medication had made my diagnosis worse. Before I was prescribed cymbalta I had did not have some of the symptoms I am having to deal with now. Cymbalta did not help my pain at all. I afraid to even try to get off of it! But the side effects from this Medication has been really bad. I am not the same person since beginning cymbalta. Cymbalta is a bad drug! I at a total loss of what to do!

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

      I would suggest joining the Cymbalta Hurts Worse group on facebook. There are lots of helpful people there, and their page has info on the best way to taper. Unfortunately there are a lot of doctors who are not aware of Cymbalta’s high rate of withdrawal.

  5. Lora Spence says:

    I’m on a high dose of Cymbalta – I think it’s been 5 years of taking it. I have depression – terrible family history and fibromyalgia. I’ve tried to reduce my dose by just a little bit – the pain I felt with just a small adjustment was horrible. I felt like I got run over by a truck and I’m scared to death to stop taking it. In order to counter act the weight gain problem I take a large dose of Wellbutrin. 🙁 Now I have high blood pressure, constant severe sweating that is ridiculous – sweat drips off my hair!! The drug, I think, helps with pain and a bit with the depression. BUT I didn’t realize what the side effects are when you take it and when I just reduced one of the three I Cymbalta pills the pain was worse than when I even started the pill. Now I’m scared. I’m 60, and I’m having some serious memory problems. I’m scared I have Alzheimers but then again – this could be from the Cymbalta. Time will tell, I guess, but people are now watching my activities and I feel more disabled than ever. And more depressed than ever – wondering what in the world is the use of living and feeling I really don’t want to live. I can’t do anything to harm myself because I have 5 granddaughters who will have the pain of having one leave purposefully. It’s a horrible legacy. But what in the world am I going to do to get off this and to try and live with the horrible pain. I’m confused alot and it scares me really bad. I used to be so sharp and had a great but stressful social work career. The job sucked the life out of me – I had the keys to the lock down unit at a VA hospital. I worked there 6 years and loved it until they decided to “fix” the system and tear it apart, rebuilding it to give each worker about 300 patients to case manage. I fell apart and became a totally financially dependent. The cymbalta price rose until we were spending $150 a month for it. I was so ashamed to buy it, knowing my husband worked so hard to support me. The price is reduced now to under 50 a month. It’s hard. My husband hasn’t had a raise other than a 1% percent inflation raise each year. If I didn’t have him I would be homeless since I’ve had to go on disability. I was taking Cymbalta actually much longer than I have indicated earlier. I don’t know to blame my present condition – fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s(which killed my mom, two aunts and an uncle), or the crazy regime of medicine I take daily. I am really mad at the drug companies – I think they have tricked us and disrespected their patients all for the mighty dollar. What else have they done that we don’t know about yet? I have been hearing how cancer does have simple natural cures and that chemo is not needed. If the drug companies have known that – how many people have suffered mercilessly by the cancer drugs. I thinkt he whole world is imploding right now. Thanks for listening. If I can help this case or if I can benefit in this case, I’d like to be a part of it.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says:

      There are thousands of Cymbalta cases in the pipeline, and statistically, Eli Lilly will not be able to win all of them. The lawsuits should prompt Eli Lilly to change its literature so there is a clear warning about the drug’s high rate of withdrawal symptoms. As for your situation, I would encourage you to talk w/ your doctors and tell them what’s going on. You might also consider joining the Cymbalta Hurts Worse group on facebook. There are lots of great people there who are knowledgable about the best way to wean off Cymbalta if you choose to go that route.

  6. Katherine says:

    I thought I was the only one who had the horrible withdrawals from this horrible drug. I’m glad to know I’m not alone. I refuse to put this pill back in my system. They need to take it off the shelf. If it causes this bad of withdrawals what is it doing to our systems when it’s in our bodies.

    • No, you are definitely not alone. Thousands of people have been affected. It will be interesting to see how these lawsuits play out.

  7. Paula Ondo says:

    Been on seen 2007. 120mg only off couple times. Doctors told me now my pancreas is messed up from being on all the meds for chronic pain and fibro. Have severe migraines that now meds don’t even work for. Chronic pain in 3 limbs. If I don’t take my Cymbalta or neurotin bad withdrawal. Everything we take for chronic pain has horrible side effects.

    • admin says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. I wish I could say your story is rare, but I keep hearing similar ones from others.

  8. Angela Perrin says:

    I have been of Cymbalta since Christmas 2014 because I couldn’t get a refill while my Dr was on vacation so I stopped cold turkey whether I wanted to or not. I still have symptoms to this day and the law group u have interviewed is representing me and I hope the can win it for me keep us posted please.

  9. joanne spadaro says:

    i had been on cymbalta for many years. i gained at least 40 pounds and have severe fatigue. all i did was sleep all day. This august i had enuf. I needed a refill and my doctor never called it in so i just stopped taking it. The withdrawal was awful. I knew it would be, because i tried it before slowly, this time i was going cold turkey. The brain zaps are the worst It is now october and i no longer sleep all day on the couch, i have lost 20 pounds without trying. I still dont feel 100 percent back to normal but i am getting there. I cry at the drop of a hat. I fly off the handle my husband is ready to kill me but hopefully it get better. The brain zaps have stops that is all that matters.

    • admin says:

      Many people have been affected. I’ve heard so many stories like yours. Glad you are starting to feel better.

  10. Sharon Tuz says:

    Even tho my doc tried to ween me off slowly, I can’t get off the stuff! Felt severely depressed, highly anxious, and couldn’t handle it…so I remain on it. Suffer from fibro, CFS, and depression. 😥

    • admin says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that. You might want to check out the “Cymbalta Hurts Worse” facebook group. There are many members there who have gone through what you are going through, and they discuss protocols to help get off of Cymbalta. I recently joined and it seems to be a great resource for people impacted by Cymbalta. I wish you well in your journey.

      • Please do check out the group mentioned above. I was also stuck on cymbalta and it was making me really ill. Because of the group I have nearly come off my 120mg dose. I’m not saying it’s been easy, it hasn’t, and it’s taken a long time but j can finally see the end. You will too.

        • admin says:

          So glad to hear you’ve been able to find help. I actually don’t take Cymbalta. I’m covering the lawsuits because there are so many in the fibromyalgia community who have been affected. It’s a big issue! I wasn’t able to take Cymbalta due to side effects.

Trackbacks

  1. […] is a rare event (somewhere around 1 percent) when in fact it is common,” writes the law firm in a recent statement. “We think Lilly played with semantics and the system in choosing its wording; it chose wording […]

  2. […] Part 2 of the series includes an interview with Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC, one of the law firms representing thousands of patients who have been affected by Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms. Part 1 of the series addresses the basics of the Cymbalta lawsuits: What are the withdrawal symptoms, what does the research say about them, why were the lawsuits brought and helpful information for anyone planning to stop Cymbalta. As always, I’ll post any breaking news related to the lawsuits in my weekly news updates. […]

  3. […] The Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits: An interview with the attorneys […]

  4. […] The Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits: An interview with the attorneys […]

  5. […] The Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits: An interview with the attorneys […]

  6. […] The Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits: An interview with the attorneys […]

  7. […] The Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuits: An interview with the attorneys | Fed Up with Fatigue says: 10.23.2015 at 3:51 pm […]

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