Lilly chalks up a win for Cymbalta in first U.S. trial over withdrawal symptom claims

Eli Lilly ($LLY) fought off the first claims of withdrawal symptoms linked to its blockbuster antidepressant, Cymbalta, as a federal jury found the drugmaker was not responsible for side effects such as brain zaps and suicidal thoughts in a patient who quit the med.

Lawyers for the plaintiff argued that Lilly downplayed serious withdrawal symptoms for Cymbalta by saying that the issues only affected a small percentage of patients who stopped taking it. But Lilly struck back, claiming that numbers weren't relevant because some individuals quitting placebo also reported withdrawal symptoms, Bloomberg reports. And a psychiatrist who testified as an expert witness for the company said that the plaintiff's symptoms could have been indicative of her underlying mental disorders.

A lawyer for the plaintiff declined to comment on the verdict to the news outlet. Lilly said that while it is "sympathetic" to the plaintiff's conditions, "we are pleased with the jury's verdict," said company spokesman J. Scott MacGregor, as quoted by Bloomberg.

The win marks a bright point for Lilly, which faces about 5,000 lawsuits over withdrawal symptoms linked to Cymbalta. The company enjoyed a few victories, with a New York judge last year denying a plaintiff's allegations over the drug. And a federal judge in California has twice rejected plaintiff's claims related to Cymbalta marketing.

But in June, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson shrugged off Lilly's attempts to throw out lawsuits over Cymbalta, ruling that patients raised some important questions about how the company portrayed withdrawal side effects. Lilly is set to face the second trial over related claims in the same Los Angeles court this week, and two more cases are scheduled for later this month in Virginia.

The early trials could be a critical test for the company, as it looks for ammo to ward off claims while dealing with mounting generic competition for Cymbalta. The drug posted $3.9 billion in sales in 2013 before losing patent protection at the end of that year, and brought in $561 million during the first half of 2015.

Lilly is not the only drugmaker facing claims over withdrawal symptoms tied to antidepressants. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is also encountering similar battles, with thousands of lawsuits alleging the drugmaker failed to warn patients about serious side effects including insomnia, headaches, dizziness and zapping sensations, tied to its antidepressant Paxil.

- read the Bloomberg story
- here's the Reuters article

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