Though they don't appear to work for everyone and have serious side effects, they may be one solution to a difficult medical problem.
Antidepressant medications may provide as much pain relief for people with arthritis as the more commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) do. That's the conclusion of a recently published review.
The antidepressant duloxetine (better known as Cymbalta) was approved by the FDA for treating chronic pain in 2010 based on two studies showing that it was about as effective a pain treatment as NSAIDs are. But so far, few patients are receiving it as a treatment for pain.
Based on self-reported pain relief, about one patient out of six benefited from duloxetine treatment.
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The review authors focused on these two studies of duloxetine as sole treatment for pain from osteoarthritis and a third that looked at duloxetine as an add-on treatment for people already taking an NSAID for knee osteoarthritis.
The two studies of duloxetine as stand-alone pain reliever for arthritis were 13-week randomized studies comparing pain relief of duloxetine to placebo. Based on self-reported pain relief, about one patient out of six benefited from duloxetine treatment.