Lawsuits accuse Eli Lilly & Co. of misleading Cymbalta patients by stating that antidepressant withdrawal occurs in “greater than or equal to 1%” of patients, when in reality the number is closer to 44-50%, with 10% of those cases classified as “severe.”
Going off antidepressants is a decision that needs to be considered with the support of a physician or therapist. Quitting “cold turkey” can cause debilitating symptoms of withdrawal, including relapse into depression or anxiety.
Antidepressants work by changing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which carry chemical signals in the brain. Over time, neurons in the brain adapt by changing levels of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and more.
When you suddenly stop an antidepressant, levels of these chemicals fluctuate and cause symptoms of withdrawal. Most antidepressants are 99% out of the body within a week. However, Prozac (fluoxetine) is not out of the body for 25 days.
Fluctuating levels of neurotransmitters can cause symptoms of withdrawal within days or weeks. They are generally mild and get better as the body re-adjusts. However, recurrent depression may continue and/or get worse.
Side Effects of Going Off Antidepressants
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea, vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Changes in appetite (loss or gain)
- Changes in weight
- Sweating excessively
- Temperature intolerance
- Sleeping problems
- Dizziness or feeling light-headed
- Muscle coordination problems
- Agitation, irritation, or anger
- Suicidal ideation or behavior
- Paresthesia (abnormal sense of texture, temperature, tingling, pricking, etc.)
- “Brain zaps” or shivers (feeling that resembles electric shock in the head)
- Ringing in the ears
- And more
How To Ease Symptoms of Antidepressant Withdrawal
Discontinuing an antidepressant usually involves tapering off the dosage in small increments over a period of time, allowing 2-6 weeks between each change in dose. During this time, you should be monitored by a doctor and keep a record of your mood on a daily basis. The tapering schedule will depend on many individual factors.
- Going Off Antidepressants — Harvard Health Publications
Cymbalta and Withdrawal
Cymbalta (duloxetine) is an antidepressant medication manufactured by Eli Lilly & Co. The drug-maker is now facing dozens of lawsuits from people who allege that they were not adequately warned about the risk of withdrawal.
The Prescribing Information for Cymbalta states that withdrawal occurs in “greater than or equal to 1%” of patients. While this is technically true, clinical trials found that 44-50% of patients experienced withdrawal. In 10% of cases, symptoms were “severe.” Lawsuits have been filed by people who were unable to stop taking Cymbalta because the withdrawal symptoms were so bad.
When a patient discontinues Cymbalta, 50% is out of the body within 12 hours, and 99% is out of the body in 2.5 days. Discontinuation symptoms typically begin when at least 90% of the drug is out of the body. Symptoms can persist for weeks or even months.
Unfortunately, no one knows how long Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms persist. In clinical trials, patients were given Cymbalta for 8-9 weeks, switched to a placebo, and monitored for 1-2 weeks. Although 54% of patients still had withdrawal symptoms after the 2-week monitoring period was over, researchers did not follow up. It is unknown what happened to these patients.