Cymbalta (duloxetine), a popular antidepressant medication and its manufacturing company, Eli Lilly, recently presented its case to an FDA advisory panel for the drug to be approved for use in treating chronic lower back pain, as well as pain due to osteoarthritis. Along with depression, Cymbalta is also approved by the FDA to treat anxiety, fibromyalgia, and nerve pain from diabetes.
The panel voted to recommend the drug for treatment of chronic lower back pain, but voted against its use for osteoporosis. The FDA is not required to follow the panel recommendations and will reach its own decision about whether or not to make Cymbalta an approved treatment for specific types of chronic pain.
Similarly, doctors have their own discretion to prescribe the drug to patients, if they feel it is medically beneficial. According to an FDA researcher, two-thirds of Cymbalta prescriptions are written to treat conditions the FDA has not officially approved the drug to treat, including an estimated 14% for pain management.
Although the drug is being used in this fashion, the drug maker cannot make any public claims about its effectiveness unless it is approved by the FDA for that specific use. If the FDA accepts the recommendation, it will primarily affect how Eli Lilly would be allowed to advertise the drug.
Update: As of November 4th, 2010 the FDA has approved Cymbalta to treat chronic musculoskeletal pain.