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Antidepressant Cymbalta Eases Back Pain

Study Shows Drug Helps Reduce Chronic Low Back Pain
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 5, 2010 -- A drug used to treat depression, fibromyalgia, and diabetic nerve pain may also provide relief from hard-to-treat chronic low back pain.

A new study shows people with chronic low back pain treated with Cymbalta experienced a significantly greater improvement in average pain scores than those treated with a placebo. Those treated with Cymbalta also reported a greater reduction in their perception of their low back pain and its interference in their daily lives.

Chronic low back pain is defined as any pain in the low back that lasts more than 12 weeks. Researchers say the problem is difficult to treat because the cause is often unclear.

"Chronic low back pain affects a significant number of people. In fact, research suggests that the incidence of the condition may be as high as 48 percent," says researcher Vladimir Skljarevski, MD, senior medical director at Lilly Research Laboratories, in a news release.

Cymbalta is part of a class of antidepressants that affect both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.

In the study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine in San Antonio, researchers compared the effects of treatment with 60 milligrams of Cymbalta once a day or a placebo in 401 adults with chronic low back pain.

After 12 weeks of treatment, the results showed those treated with Cymbalta had a significantly greater reduction in average pain, as measured by the Brief Pain Inventory. They also experienced greater improvement in their own perception of their low back pain and its severity and interference with their daily lives.

Treatment with Cymbalta also had a slight, but not significant, effect on disability scores.

The most common significant side effects of treatment with Cymbalta were nausea and dry mouth. Fifteen percent of those treated with Cymbalta dropped out of the study due to adverse side effects compared with 5% of those who received a placebo.

Eli Lilly and Company, which markets Cymbalta, funded and took part in the study. Cymbalta is approved by the FDA to treat major depression and generalized anxiety disorder as well as to manage diabetic nerve pain and fibromyalgia.

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