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Antidepressant Cymbalta Can Soothe Pain from Chemotherapy

Update Date: Apr 03, 2013 11:28 AM EDT

The pains, such as tingling and numbness in the limbs often caused by certain cancer drug treatments might be treatable with the common antidepressant, Cymbalta. A new clinical trial reported some success in using Cymbalta for treating cancer patients who suffer from chronic cases of peripheral neuropathy, which is a side effect of chemotherapy. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when chemotherapy damages the nerves in the body, leading to pain and oftentimes, numbness. Based on these findings, the researchers confirmed the current usage of Cymbalta in treating the chemotherapy-related pains that certain patients suffer from.

The research team looked at the effects of Cymbalta on 115 patients, who took the drug for five weeks. They found that 59 percent of the patients who took the antidepressant reported feeling less pain. Only 38 percent of patients who were given a placebo reported pain relief. The researchers divided the people into two groups, with half starting off with Cymbalta and the other half with a placebo. The groups were then switched after five weeks, but were never told which drug they were receiving. Some doctors have prescribed Cymbalta for their cancer patients, but there was no strong evidence that Cymbalta could really lessen the pains of chemotherapy until this study. These doctors knew that the antidepressant was effective in relieving pain arising from other health complications and believed that it might have similar effects on chemotherapy-induced pain.

"This is the first study of its kind to show that this works against chemotherapy-related neuropathic pain," Dr. Michael Stubblefield, who was not a part of the study, stated. Dr. Stubblefield is a doctor from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center located in New York City.

Peripheral neuropathy is a common side effect of chemotherapy, afflicting roughly 20 to 40 percent of cancer patients. Now that the study confirmed previous beliefs that Cymbalta can ease the pain, more patients will hopefully have a more pain free treatment journey. However, the study did reveal that, like all drugs, Cymbalta did not relieve the pain for all 231 patients, with some patients stating that they felt worse after taking Cymbalta.

The study was published in the journal of the American Medical Association.

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