You’ve probably seen the television commercials or magazine ads for Cymbalta, and you might be wondering what makes it different from other antidepressants. Since I know that the writing in the medication insert is dense enough to make your eyes cross and your head nod, I’ve distilled some of the basic information about it here.
Cymbalta (duloxetine) is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) prescribed for the treatment of depression, anxiety, stress urinary incontinence, nerve pain and fibromyalgia. Other antidepressants in the SNRI family that you may have heard of are Effexor and Serzone. SNRIs act on two neurotransmitters in the brain, namely serotonin and norepinephrine, to prevent their reabsorption after they act on receptors.
As with several other SNRIs, Cymbalta’s most common side effects are nausea, dry mouth, drowsiness, headache, changes in appetite, vivid dreams, dizziness and sexual side effects. This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible side effects, just the most common.
Cymbalta should never be taken with an MAOI inhibitor or thioridazine. Caution is called for if it is taken with other drugs that affect the central nervous system, and if taken with St. John’s Wort. It should be avoided by individuals with uncontrolled narrow-angle glaucoma. A more detailed list of medication whose effect could be increased or decreased when taken with other drugs can be found on the insert.
Cymbalta should be discontinued gradually instead of abruptly, whenever possible, to avoid adverse effects. As with all antidepressants, Cymbalta carries a “black box” warning that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicide in persons younger than 25.
The total daily dose for treatment of major depression ranges from 40 milligrams to 60 milligrams. Cymbalta should be taken at the same time every day, with or without food.
Deborah Gray wrote about depression as a Patient Expert for HealthCentral. She lived with undiagnosed clinical depression, both major episodes and dysthymia, from childhood through young adulthood. She was finally diagnosed at age 27, and since that time, her depression has been successfully managed with medication and psychotherapy.