The complaint arises out of Defendant Eli Lilly and Company’s (“Lilly”) deceptive and unlawful marketing of the “blockbuster” antidepressant Cymbalta (generically known as duloxetine). Since Cymbalta first entered the antidepressant market in 2004, Lilly has engaged in a calculated campaign to mislead consumers and healthcare professionals about the frequency, severity, and duration of symptoms associated with stopping Cymbalta, a condition known as Cymbalta withdrawal.
Lilly’s clinical trials of Cymbalta indicate that Cymbalta withdrawal is a frequent and, at times, painful condition. Users stopping Cymbalta experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, paresthesiam, vomiting, irritability, nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, hyperhidrosis, sensory disturbances, suicidal ideation, electrical “brain zaps,” seizures, and vertigo. These symptoms can range from mild to severe—the latter consisting of debilitating and painful symptoms that last several months.
Since Cymbalta’s release in 2004, Lilly has warned consumers and healthcare professionals that Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms occur “at a rate greater than or equal to one (1) percent[.]” This characterization is at best misleading. In truth, Lilly’s own clinical trials indicate that up to fifty-one (51) percent of Cymbalta users experience withdrawal symptoms, and approximately thirty (30) percent of users experience moderate or severe symptoms.
Lilly has carefully crafted a warning label that is designed to mislead consumers and healthcare professionals into believing that Cymbalta withdrawal is rare or mild. The reason why is simple—Lilly knows that once it gets users “hooked” on Cymbalta, Lilly will have a legion of physically-dependant, life-long customers.
In response to Lilly’s deceptive and unlawful marketing practices, a community of former and current Cymbalta users has emerged to provide mutual support and guidance in dealing with Cymbalta withdrawal. Since Lilly has not provided any substantive guidance on how to properly deal with Cymbalta withdrawal, people have developed ad hoc programs for slowly weaning off Cymbalta over several months. Regardless of the approach, however, users attempting to stop Cymbalta, even gradually, experience substantial withdrawal symptoms. Users can even experience Cymbalta withdrawal months after they have fully stopped taking the drug.
The Plaintiff, like many Cymbalta consumers within the United States, used Cymbalta to treat ongoing depression and anxiety. She believed, based on Lilly’s extensive marketing and promotion that Cymbalta would help her manage the symptoms related to her medical condition. She did not know at that time, however, that she was trading marginal relief from depression and anxiety for dependency on a drug. After taking Cymbalta for a period of time, Plaintiff felt that her depression and anxiety had improved and she decided to stop Cymbalta. But, despite her best efforts, she could not. She began to experience substantial and significant withdrawal symptoms including, but not limited to, severe nausea, electrical “brain zaps,” full-body shaking, and debilitating tunnel vision. She was forced to continue Cymbalta just to mitigate the withdrawal. She was, in other words, “hooked.”
Although it took her almost an entire year, Plaintiff was able to slowly wean herself off Cymbalta. However, even after she had finally stopped Cymbalta, she continued to experience withdrawal symptoms for several months. Plaintiff would have never started Cymbalta if she had known the truth.
Lilly knew that disclosing the real risks of Cymbalta withdrawal in its marketing and risk disclosure materials would have been disastrous to its sales. Instead of honestly disclosing the risks associated with Cymbalta withdrawal and letting consumers and prescribing healthcare professionals decide if Cymbalta was worth the risk, Lilly chose to engage in deceptive and unlawful marketing practices designed to hide the truth.
As a result of Lilly’s deceptive and unlawful marketing practices, it is estimated that Lilly has sold approximately $18 billion in Cymbalta between 2004 and 2011.
Plaintiff brings this lawsuit against Lilly in two capacities. First, Plaintiff brings a consumer protection class action, on behalf of herself and those similarly situated, seeking relief for Lilly’s deceptive and unlawful marketing of Cymbalta in the United States. Second, Plaintiff brings suit on behalf of herself for the personal injuries and pain she sustained during her Cymbalta withdrawal.