Cymbalta for Post-Chemo Pain?
The antidepressant duloxetine (brand name Cymbalta) may help relieve the tingling, pain, and numbness in the hands and feet that can result from chemotherapy. The condition is called peripheral neuropathy and it can be chronic. In some patients, the condition lasts several years after the end of treatments. An estimated 30% of patients receiving taxanes (brand names Taxol and Taxotere) experience neuropathy, and MedPage Today reports that "the side effect is a contributing factor to patients dropping treatment." Taxanes are often used to treat breast cancer.
The Cymbalta study, which should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal, was done by Ellen Lavoie Smith, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan's School of Nursing and presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. HealthDay quoted Smith as saying that taking Cymbalta daily "decreases chronic chemotherapy-induced neuropathy and pain severity in the majority of patients who take it and it improves function and quality of life." She added that patients taking Cymbalta "had a greater decrease in the amount that pain interfered with some very important things -- with general activity, with movement, walking, normal work, relations with people, sleep and enjoyment of life."
Cymbalta can have side effects of its own, however. The most common symptoms are dizziness and fatigue. Smith reported, though, that the antidepressant medication was "well-tolerated" by the majority of the patients in her study.