Antidepressant Eases Nerve Pain From Chemo

Chemo Meds Pain

By Lorie A. Parch

Cancer comes with all kinds of pain, sometimes from the disease itself, and often directly and indirectly from treatment, including the discomforts caused by chemotherapy. As many as 40 percent of cancer patients who received certain types of chemo experience pain, tingling, and burning, as well as numbness in the hands and feet. Anything that provides relief is welcome.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports on promising research involving chemotherapy-induced nerve pain, or peripheral neuropathy. It notes that currently “there are no known effective treatments” for this pain.

The research looked at whether a daily dose 60 milligrams of duloxetine (brand name Cymbalta), a commonly prescribed antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication, would ease peripheral neuropathy. The researchers studied 231 patients enrolled by the National Cancer Institute between 2008 and 2011. Some participants got the drug followed by a placebo; some got a placebo and then the drug. All had at least an average level of pain.

After five weeks, the researchers found that the duloxetine was more effective than a placebo and resulted in a greater reduction in patients’ pain. Though most commonly considered an antidepressant, Cymbalta is also prescribed for fibromyalgia, as well as for diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic low back pain.

Side effects of duloxetine include nausea, dry mouth, fatigue, sleepiness, constipation, and dizziness, according to the drug manufacturer’s website.

Have you ever taken duloxetine? Are you dealing with nerve pain from chemotherapy or diabetes? If so, please join our community today and share your story with others.


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Lorie A. Parch is a writer, editor, and content strategist with over 20 years' experience in consumer content across print, digital, and social media. She has held staff roles at AOL (UK), Yahoo!, Conde Nast, Hearst, Time Inc., American Media/Weider, and Gruner + Jahr, among other companies, and has contributed to dozens of magazines and sites. Lorie lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her small communications firm, 828 Communications.