Eli Lilly faces August trials in suits over Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms

A U.S. judge refused to toss out lawsuits claiming that Eli Lilly & Co. ($LLY) downplayed withdrawal symptoms associated with its blockbuster antidepressant Cymbalta. As Bloomberg reports, Lilly will now have to fight claims that it misled consumers about "brain zaps" and other side effects suffered by people trying to quit using the drug.

The California lawsuits are among more than 5,000 cases making similar claims, and would be the first of those to go to court. U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson set the first two trials for August, Bloomberg says.

Wilson ruled that Cymbalta patients raised legitimate questions about Lilly's handling of withdrawal side effects. The lawsuits claim that Lilly executives soft-pedaled the risk of those symptoms--including "brain zaps," nausea, vomiting and insomnia--by saying that only a small percentage of users experienced side effects when quitting the med.

The drug's official warnings cited symptoms in only about 2% of patients, the lawsuits say, while some studies found withdrawal side effects in 40% of patients. European warning labels cited withdrawal symptoms in 45% of users, the patients claim.

Among the claims is that Lilly designed Cymbalta trials to "under-report the risk of discontinuation symptoms," according to Wilson's June 19 ruling.

"We believe in our defenses to these claims and we will continue to defend Lilly vigorously," Lilly spokesman Scott MacGregor told Bloomberg.

- read the Bloomberg story

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