Trial Underway Over Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms in California Federal Court

The first of several hundred Cymbalta lawsuits pending against Eli Lilly & Co. is going before a jury this week, involving allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms associated with the popular antidepressant.

Trial began on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for a case filed by Claudia Herrera, who alleges that she suffered severe withdrawal symptoms when she tried to stop using the drug.

The complaint (PDF) was originally filed in 2013, indicating that side effects of Cymbalta caused Herrera to suffer severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms after using the medication for more than five years. Herrera indicates that she experienced sharp, painful zaps of electricity shooting through her head. She also indicates that the Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms caused her to experience extreme anxiety and fear, stomach pains, suicidal ideation, uncontrollable muscle spasms, hot flashes, and body shivers.

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Herrera is one of about 250 people pursuing a Cymbalta withdrawal lawsuit against Eli Lilly, according to a report by Reuters.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Side Effects

Cymbalta (duloxetine) was approved by the FDA in 2004, for the treatment of depression. It is part of a family of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which have been linked to symptoms of withdrawal since at least 2001.

According to a 2012 report by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), early clinical studies have shown that about half of patients who abruptly discontinued use of Cymbalta suffered withdrawal symptoms.

About 10% of those cases involved severe problems and more than half of the cases involved side effects that lasted longer than a week or two.

Instead of providing clear information about the risk of serious and potentially severe withdrawal symptoms with Cymbalta, plaintiffs in the lawsuits allege that the medication guide and label provided with the drug provided only a very vague warning.

Cymbalta Litigation

The Herrara trial comes as a panel of federal judges are being asked to consolidate all Cymbalta lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) previously rejected a similar request in December 2014, indicating at that time that there were too few cases and only a limited number of law firms involved in the lawsuits. Therefore, cases like Herrara’s have been providing individually in different U.S. District Courts nationwide.

In a motion filed last month, a group of plaintiffs asked the U.S. JPML to reconsider the centralization of the Cymbalta litigation, indicating that it is necessary to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

While the outcome of the Herrara case will not be binding on other lawsuits, it will be closely watched as it may help gauge how juries will respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation. The outcome may also impact potential Cymbalta settlement negotiations to avoid additional trials if Herrara is successful in her claim.

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