Antidepressant relieves neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapy


The antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine), from the Eli Lilly laboratory, is said to have an effect in relieving neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapy, according to a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference (ASCO 2012).

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is caused by nerve damage, most commonly in the arms and legs. It affects 20 to 30% of people treated with certain chemotherapies such as Cisplatin, Docetaxel, Oxaliplatin and Placlitaxel.

Symptoms may include burning, tingling, numbness, balance problems, and sensitivity to cold or heat. This neuropathy is often chronic and debilitating, lasting for months and years after the end of chemotherapy.

Dr. Ellen M. Lavoie Smith of the University of Michigan and her colleagues conducted this study with 231 people receiving chemotherapy with Paclitaxel or Oxaliplatin and suffering from neuropathic pain. They were randomly assigned to take the antidepressant or placebo.

Duloxetine 30 mg a day for the first week, followed by 60 mg daily for 4 weeks (gradual dosage to reduce side effects such as nausea, drowsiness, dry mouth …) resulted in pain relief in 59% of participants compared to 39% in the placebo group. The main side effect was fatigue reported by 11% of participants compared to 3% in the placebo group.

The Cymbalta has already shown efficacy against neuropathic pain of diabetes and chronic musculoskeletal pain (osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia …), the researchers say. It would act by activating the neurotransmitters that interrupt the signals of pain in the brain.


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