It appears as though the pharmaceutical juggernaut Eli Lilly is facing major legal backlash for failure to disclose discontinuation effects associated with their medication Cymbalta (Duloxetine). Cymbalta is an SNRI antidepressant that was approved in August 2004 for the treatment of major depression. A woman named Claudia Herrera has been making news headlines because she is one of an estimated 250 (former) Cymbalta users that have decided to file lawsuits against Eli Lilly.
Claudia Herrera began taking Cymbalta in 2006 specifically for anxiety symptoms; this is an FDA approved use of Cymbalta. Approximately 6 years after taking the drug in 2012, she decided to discontinue with the help of a medical professional. They conducted a gradual taper, slowly reducing the dosage over an extended period of time.
By conducting a gradual taper, the thought was that she wouldn’t suffer from any significant withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, despite her tapering efforts, she still experienced an array of severe discontinuation effects, some of which were not reported by Eli Lilly including: brain zaps, heightened anxiety, muscle spasms, and suicidal thinking. It was evident to her that Eli Lilly had downplayed the severity of Cymbalta discontinuation.
Eli Lilly failed to inform users of Cymbalta that they’d experience discontinuation symptoms when stopping the drug. In other words, they portrayed Cymbalta to be a utopian antidepressant in that a person could take it and stop without any neurophysiological symptoms. Stopping Cymbalta was supposed to be easy, with no physical or psychological signs of antidepressant dependence.
Why are Cymbalta lawsuits increasing in popularity?
The answer: Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms. Manufacturer of Cymbalta (Duloxetine), Eli Lilly and Company didn’t properly inform users that discontinuation of their potent mind-altering antidepressant would pose significant difficulty. It has since been discovered that discontinuation of any antidepressant (including Cymbalta) is much tougher than pharmaceutical companies want consumers to believe. For years antidepressants were marketed as having “no withdrawal” symptoms.
If potential users were properly informed of severe discontinuation symptoms prior to using Cymbalta, they may have avoided it or pursued alternative options. In retrospect, many former Cymbalta users wish they had never taken Cymbalta due to the suffering they’ve endured upon discontinuation.
Examples of Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms
Below is a list of some commonly reported discontinuation effects associated with Cymbalta. In the case of plaintiff Claudia Herrera, a variety of symptoms plagued her existence upon discontinuation, including: electrical brain zaps, suicidal thinking, spasms, and a resurgence of anxiety. While these symptoms are all common when stopping antidepressants, many were not reported by Eli Lilly.
- Anxiety: A person’s anxiety is often heightened upon discontinuation from Cymbalta because the brain had adapted to the drug, becoming reliant upon it for relief. When discontinued, it takes awhile for neurochemistry to return to homeostasis.
- Brain zaps: These refer to electrical shock sensations within the brain that often occur when discontinuing serotonergic antidepressants.
- Spasms: It is common to experience muscle spasms as a result of discontinuation due to the fact that antidepressants influence physiology. When a person quits (especially after years of daily usage), it takes their body awhile to readjust.
- Suicidal ideation: Any drug that improves your mood and/or affects mood-related neurotransmitters can trigger suicidal thinking when discontinued.
- Severe depression: Depression often intensifies when quitting medications like Cymbalta as a result of neurotransmission alterations.
- Dizziness: Among the most common withdrawal symptoms is dizziness that feels like you just stepped off a rollercoaster (maybe even worse). This can last weeks before a person notices improvement.
- Headache: Many people report pounding headaches when they quit Cymbalta.
- Nausea: Some people have such bad nausea when they stop antidepressants that they vomit.
- Fatigue: Many people become lethargic and experience debilitating fatigue that persists for months after discontinuation before improving. In fact, many believe that antidepressants cause chronic fatigue, or at least prolonged bouts of low energy.
Does Cymbalta have a warning label of withdrawal symptoms?
The packaging label that is attached to Cymbalta prescriptions documents that 1% or more of individuals who discontinue the drug may experience withdrawal symptoms such as: nausea, irritability, insomnia, sensory disturbances, and seizures. It’s relatively comical that they portray only 1% of users to experience withdrawal symptoms, when in theory 100% of people should experience some sort of withdrawal.
In addition, there are many more symptoms that occur during withdrawal than are being reported by the company. They make claims like 1% and state general symptoms based on short-term trials. Companies also attempt to withhold results and trials that may indicate more severe discontinuation symptoms, so there’s always a chance that Eli Lilly has a stash of private studies that never surfaced; this helps protect their image.
Plaintiffs in lawsuits with Eli Lilly suggest that at least 44% of Cymbalta users experience discontinuation symptoms. This 44% figure is based off of an analysis published in the “Journal of Affective Disorders.” Documentation suggesting 1% is a stark contrast to the 44% discovered in the journal, but even the journal is likely a low-ball figure.
Think about it, anytime a person takes a psychotropic drug – regardless of the type, it’s going to have an effect on neurochemistry. If a person takes it for a longer duration at a higher dosage, the alterations to neurochemistry will be more significant. When a person stops a drug like Cymbalta that has altered: serotonergic processes, noradrenergic processes, and likely a cascade of other neurotransmitters and hormones – withdrawal symptoms will be prevalent upon discontinuation; this is common sense.
The sad reality is that many people are duped into using antidepressants thinking that they are utopian treatment for mental illness. While they can certainly be beneficial, the repercussions of discontinuation can be extremely difficult to deal with. Withdrawal symptoms can last months before a person consciously recognizes that they’ve lessened in severity and/or improved.
Eli Lilly undermined Cymbalta’s withdrawal, but was it intentional?
It is unclear as to whether the underestimation of discontinuation symptoms associated with Cymbalta was intentional, or unintentional. The countless people that experienced adverse reactions when trying to quit Cymbalta firmly believe that Eli Lilly intentionally withheld information regarding discontinuation symptoms and/or was totally negligent. That said, it is still important to consider Eli Lilly’s position in these lawsuits.
Yes, it was intentional…
Many people including Claudia Herrera are arguing that Eli Lilly failed to inform users of the severity of discontinuation symptoms associated with Cymbalta for numerous reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason was that they may have lost money if people would’ve considered certain withdrawal symptoms prior to using the drug. When a drug hits the market, the goal of pharmaceutical companies is to maximize sales (and profits).
Profits: A motivation to keep withdrawal symptoms under wraps from the general public is to ensure maximum sales. Hurting the reputation of a new drug like Cymbalta by suggesting debilitating withdrawals would make less people likely to try it. The less people are willing to try it, the worse its sales and ultimately the less profits for Eli Lilly.
One could argue that Eli Lilly may have known about the array of problematic adverse discontinuation reactions associated with Cymbalta, but justified not mentioning them for increased profits. Even if Eli Lilly would lose money in a Cymbalta lawsuit, they will have reaped such exorbitant profits, that a loss wouldn’t matter much. This wouldn’t be anything new, as unpublished data of Paxil was recently unveiled, questioning the drug’s efficacy after years of it being on the market.
No, it wasn’t intentional…
Some would argue that Eli Lilly didn’t undermine the withdrawal of Cymbalta. They conducted clinical trials, and published the evidence attained from those trials regarding what occurs when a person stops the drug. Despite the fact that the trials are often short-term and publishing of these trials may have been selective (in that certain trials weren’t published), Eli Lilly can argue that they marketed the drug based off of “science.”
Fabrication of symptoms: Eli Lilly is playing the hand they’ve been dealt by portraying the research that they’ve conducted with Cymbalta to show its safety. Their goal as a company is to make plaintiffs like Claudia Herrera look like delusional outliers or among the 1% with adverse discontinuation symptoms. In fact, they may go as far as to suggest that Claudia et al. is fabricating withdrawal symptoms simply to turn a quick dollar.
Eli Lilly may even suggest that the symptoms Claudia experienced during withdrawal are a direct result of her psychiatric condition rather than the drug. Since the symptoms like brain zaps cannot be objectively recorded and scientifically “proven” in the court of law, the judge cannot possibly confirm that these “electric shocks” even exist. Nor can it be proven that Claudia’s symptoms are directly resulting from her initial anxiety and/or secondary neurological disorders.
Unknown effects: It is also important to consider the possibility that Eli Lilly may have not known all of the consequences associated with discontinuing Cymbalta. Cymbalta has been researched, but not among users that have taken it for years. Some people have taken it daily for over a decade and are trying to discontinue only to face significant difficulty and many symptoms that Eli Lilly didn’t report.
The long-term effects associated with Cymbalta are just finally starting to surface. Studies conducted to test the safety and efficacy of Cymbalta were not conducted over a 10 year period, therefore may be missing a bulk of discontinuation effects and adverse effects associated with long-term usage.
Why it took awhile for a Cymbalta lawsuit to get filed…
Lawsuits for most drugs do not occur immediately when the drug initially hits the market. When a new drug is approved, it often takes years for people to recognize the severity of side effects, long-term effects, and withdrawal symptoms. Cymbalta was approved in 2004, making it a relatively new antidepressant compared to other SSRIs, TCAs, and MAOIs – classes that have been around for decades.
When a drug hits the market, pharmaceutical manufacturers want to cash-in on the profits before the patent expires. New drugs are promoted like crazy, until many people start using them and/or thinking that their current medication should probably be replaced with something “newer.” Hence after Cymbalta’s approval in 2004, many people resorted to giving it a shot – suspecting that it may be a magic bullet antidepressant.
Even many medical professionals were convinced that Cymbalta’s unique targeting of both serotonin and norepinephrine was nothing short of a utopian drug for depression. It would inevitably gain approval for the treatment of neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, anxiety disorders, and musculoskeletal pain. With each new approved use, the number of people prescribed Cymbalta continued to increase – making it a highly lucrative medication for Eli Lilly.
People were prescribed a highly-potent mind-altering drug in Cymbalta, but were not informed of the symptomatic onslaught they’d experience when trying to discontinue. The Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms included things like: brain zaps (electrical shock sensations), increased depression and suicidal ideation – even among those who were not taking it to treat psychiatric conditions.
As a result of these severe discontinuation symptoms, a small percentage of users decided to file lawsuits against Eli Lilly. These are individuals that experienced such profound suffering when trying to quit Cymbalta, that they resorted to waging legal war with a pharmaceutical company that has the finances to crush them in a court of law.
Claudia Herrera’s Lawsuit vs. Eli Lilly (Details)
Claudia Herrera argued that Eli Lilly intentionally undermined withdrawal symptoms of Cymbalta to make it more marketable, ultimately increasing their profits. The lawyers of Herrera suggested that Herrera’s doctor was unaware of the risks associated with Cymbalta. They also presented evidence from a 2005 study suggesting that at least 44% of those discontinuing Cymbalta experience symptoms.
The lawyers for Eli Lilly argued that 2% or more experienced some discontinuation symptoms. They further highlighted the fact that the study suggesting 44% of users experience withdrawal symptoms is flawed in that 22% of individuals receiving a placebo also noted withdrawals. Obviously there is still a marked difference between 2% of users, and the 44% reported in the 2005 study.
Claudia Herrera was quoted as testifying, “I felt I was going to have a stroke” and “I thought I was going to pass out” – referring to the dreaded brain zaps. A psychiatrist by the name of Douglas Jacobs served as an expert witness for Eli Lilly, testifying that there’s no evidence from medical literature of withdrawal symptoms lasting for months. He further mentioned that the “symptoms” she reported were likely a manifestation of her underlying psychiatric conditions.
A spokesman for Eli Lilly was quoted as saying, “While Lilly is sympathetic to Ms. Herrera’s conditions, we are pleased with the jury’s verdict.” Claudia Herrera’s legal team declined to comment following the case.
My personal experience with Cymbalta
When Cymbalta hit the market in 2004, I automatically assumed that it would help with my depressive symptoms. At the time I had already tried every other SSRI and SNRI, giving them a test for at least 6 to 8 weeks without any mood improvement. I had been suffering refractory depression, and my psychiatrist had been playing “antidepressant roulette” – constantly putting me on new antidepressants immediately after failing to experience a mood boost after 8 week trials.
He had some sample packs of the new medication Cymbalta, which I mistakenly perceived as a utopian option. I figured that newer medications were likely better, with less side effects, greater efficacy, and reduced likelihood of withdrawal symptoms. After giving Cymbalta a shot for 2 months, I became zombified, and even more depressed than usual; experiencing overwhelming suicidal thoughts.
Even after tinkering with the dosage, my mood continued to get worse in response to the drug. I ended up quitting Cymbalta cold turkey, because at the time, no one suspected any withdrawal symptoms. Little did I know that I would endure a hell (actually much worse than “hell” – there isn’t a term that would do justice in describing my experience) that would persist for months after discontinuation.
I informed my psychiatrist that I had experienced significant withdrawal symptoms, and he suggested that they were likely stemming from my underlying condition rather than the medication. He went as far as to suggest that my mental illness was simply becoming more severe as a result of age, rather than considering that any symptoms could be a result of the potent Cymbalta (Duloxetine) that I was taking as a teenager with a developing brain. Like Douglas Jacobs in the trial, my psychiatrist said that there was no literature to indicate withdrawal symptoms – especially those that persist for months.
It took me several years to fully recover from the lingering withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta et al., and lead me to conclude that antidepressants cause a chemical imbalance that lingers long after discontinuation. Some people have fewer neurophysiological consequences than others following discontinuation (based on individual factors), but anyone that’s taken a drug like Cymbalta for even several weeks will endure some backlash of symptoms. These symptoms occur because there’s no such thing as a biological free lunch when it comes to antidepressants (or any drug).
I have no motivation to lie about my experience with Cymbalta, and am not involved in a lawsuit. I don’t hate Cymbalta, and realize that it helps many people cope with a variety of conditions. All I’m saying is that it was beyond horrific to discontinue, and if I had to decide between another post-acute withdrawal from Cymbalta and a bullet, I’m not sure if I could resist the bullet.
Thoughts about pharmaceutical companies and psychiatry
I now realize how negligence and/or corruption of pharmaceutical companies trickles right down to psychiatrists. Companies like Eli Lilly fail to divulge information (sometimes likely unintentionally) and psychiatrists review the literature. They make decisions based off of the available literature and science, and update their decisions when new publications emerge.
It is apparent to me (and many others) that withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta and many other antidepressants can linger for many months before subtle improvements are noted. While this is nowhere in the “literature,” it is a reality. I would challenge any psychiatrist to shovel down high daily doses of Cymbalta as an experiment for a year or two, and then taper down (or if you’re feeling especially ballsy, quit cold turkey).
Next, report to me about the withdrawal symptoms that you will have; they will be plentiful and severe. But I will downplay them and suggest that according to the literature there really aren’t any symptoms. File a lawsuit against the manufacturer claiming that they failed to divulge discontinuation symptoms and severity to consumers.
Then I’ll step in on behalf of the pharmaceutical company and testify that your purported withdrawal symptoms were simply figments of your imagination and a medical impossibility. Oh, are you claiming that you’ve dealt with them for months now? I’m not buying it – they were more likely a result of your underlying psychiatric ailments that I suspected you were dealing with prior to using the drug.
Most likely scenario: Patients are reporting the truth about Cymbalta
It doesn’t make much sense for patients (over 250 of them) to file lawsuits against Eli Lilly (regarding Cymbalta) unless they endured serious injustices associated with the medication. Let’s understand that most individuals taking antidepressants like Cymbalta aren’t high rollers that can afford to hire lawyers for medical injustices. Even among the select patients that can afford lawyers, they are up against a billion-dollar pharmaceutical company and know that they will most likely get crushed in the court of law.
Pharmaceutical companies can afford the best legal team, and will know how to exploit the law to minimize likelihood of a financial loss. Since many people know that lawsuits are expensive, and have a significant possibility of losing the case, most people do not go through with battles against big pharma. These lawsuits can take years to advance through the courts and even longer before compensation is awarded (assuming the plaintiff wins the case).
This means there are relatively few people (likely of tens of thousands) that actually go through with filing a lawsuit against a company like Eli Lilly. For a person to have the gumption to file a lawsuit against Eli Lilly means that they likely endured life-altering atrocities associated with the medication Cymbalta. If the withdrawals were actually “minor” and nothing out of the ordinary occurred – there wouldn’t be any reason to jump through the hoops necessary for a big lawsuit.
Despite the truths about Cymbalta being presented in a court of law, big pharma companies like Eli Lilly won’t ever back down from their reputation. They want to retain their financial assets and image, and know that with a good law firm, they will likely be protected. They will fight cases like Claudia Herrera’s to protect their reputation and assets.
I understand that people like Claudia Herrera are telling the truth because I’ve endured much of what she has described. It took me months before I even felt halfway normal after Cymbalta, and many symptoms lingered for a protracted term. People don’t want to expose themselves with mental illnesses and file lawsuits unless they’ve really been victim of a severe psychological maiming.
Claudia Herrera lost the lawsuit, but 250 more have been filed…
Claudia Herrera may have lost her lawsuit against Eli Lilly, but an estimated 5,000 other lawsuits are pending regarding Cymbalta. This was the first (of many) cases that claim Eli Lilly kept risks of discontinuation hidden from the public. Claudia’s lawyers described her symptoms as “serious and life-threatening.”
Another trial has already begun regarding Cymbalta in the same courthouse as the trial of Herrera. It is apparent that the lawyers agreeing to take these cases must see significant financial rewards to be attained from Eli Lilly based on the severity of claims. A lawyer involved in the Herrera case was quoted as saying, “The success or failure of these cases will give us a good sense of how they are playing to these juries.”
He elaborated, “Even if we lose, we have every intention of moving forward with the litigation.” There are an estimated upcoming 250 additional lawsuits that have been filed against Eli Lilly specifically over Cymbalta. Just within the month of August (2015), there are an estimated three more trials that will be underway. It was noted that Cymbalta was among the top selling antidepressants over the past few years, raking in an estimated $3.9 billion in just 2013.
Eli Lilly putting up a strong defense
Anytime a single individual is fighting a pharmaceutical conglomerate like Eli Lilly, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Most people don’t even attempt to file a lawsuit because it seems futile. Dump a bunch of money into a lawyer, hope that the case makes it to court, and keep your fingers crossed that you can somehow pull off a victory.
If you lose, you’re out a lot of time, effort, and money. Eli Lilly can afford to pump as much money into a top-notch legal team as possible, giving them the major upperhand in court. Claudia Herrera lost her case, and Eli Lilly said that they would continue to “vigorously defend” all other cases to protect their reputation and Cymbalta.
“While Lilly is sympathetic to Ms. Herrera’s conditions, we are pleased with the jury’s verdict,” Lilly spokeswoman Celeste Stanley said.
Do people deserve to win a lawsuit for Cymbalta against Eli Lilly?
I believe that someone should win a lawsuit against Eli Lilly for its downplaying of withdrawal symptoms associated with Cymbalta. That said, I think significantly more attention should be paid to the protracted withdrawal symptoms associated with all psychiatric drugs and the many other problems with psychiatry. Cymbalta shouldn’t necessarily be singled out as being any worse compared to other medications.
In my experience, it was the most severe and debilitating to discontinue and I’ve tried nearly every SSRI and SNRI on the market. Doctors, psychiatrists, and researchers are far from deciphering the discontinuation symptoms, long-term effects, and other adverse reactions associated with psychiatric medications like Cymbalta. It can only be hoped that in forthcoming years the truth regarding discontinuation consequences of all psychiatric drugs are fully deciphered and elucidated.
If I had to put a price tag on compensation for my withdrawal from Cymbalta, I’m not sure that a dollar amount would do it justice. No amount of money can reverse the abyss of psychological pain that was endured upon withdrawal. I feel as if a check for at least $250,000 would be relatively fair now, as I barely made it out alive.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the Cymbalta lawsuits in the comments section below. Mention whether you’ve personally taken Cymbalta and whether you think that your experience was awful enough to warrant compensation. I’ve had problems with most psychiatric drugs, but many pale in comparison to those experienced during withdrawal from Cymbalta.