Duloxetine found to reduce joint pain associated with breast cancer treatment

January 18, 2011

Duloxetine (Cymbalta, Eli Lilly), used to treated depression and anxiety, was found to be effective at reducing joint and muscle pain associated with breast cancer treatment.

Duloxetine (Cymbalta, Eli Lilly), used to treated depression and anxiety, was found to be effective at reducing joint and muscle pain associated with breast cancer treatment.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor studied 29 patients who were taking aromatase inhibitors to block the production of estrogen. About half of women taking these drugs experience joint and muscle pain that cannot be adequately relieved by over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers. In addition, up to 20% of these women will stop taking an aromatase inhibitor because of the pain, according to the researchers.

In the duloxetine study, three-quarters of the patients reported that their pain had decreased by at least 30%. On average, after 8 weeks of treatment, pain scores declined 61%. “Duloxetine appears to be effective at reducing the muscle and joint pain many women experience from aromatase inhibitors, with only mild additional side effects,” said N. Lynn Henry, MD, PhD, lead author and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

In addition to the decrease in pain levels, some patients had “significant improvement” in other breast cancer side effects, including depressions and hot flashes, according to Henry. “We will follow up, and we hope to find one medication that will address multiple life-quality issues,” Henry said.

The University of Michigan researchers are also planning a large, randomized, controlled trial comparing duloxetine to placebo.