Have you been seeing the ad blitz for Lyrica (pregabalin)? A LOT of money is being spent trying to convince the American public that Lyrica is the answer to diabetic nerve pain. One of the most compelling commercials stars a retired policeman:

“Hi, I’m terry and I have diabetic nerve pain. I worked a patrol unit for 17 years in the city of Baltimore. When I first started experiencing the pain it’s hard to describe because you have a numbness but yet you have the pain like thousands of needles sticking in your foot.”

Sounds awful and indeed people with diabetic neuropathy suffer terribly. Symptoms can include:

SYMPTOMS OF DIABETIC NEUROPATHY

  • Burning, tingling or a feeling of needles sticking into your skin
  • Numbness in toes and feet; an inability to sense a needle prick; reduced sensitivity to temperature change
  • Difficulty walking either because of numbness, pain or weakness
  • Intense stabbing jolts of pain, especially in the evening
  • Other complications of nerve damage include sexual dysfunction, swallowing difficulties, poor stomach emptying leading to feelings of fullness and bloating, bladder problems and dizziness on standing.

It’s hardly any wonder that patients with neuropathy and nerve pain would be looking for help. A commercial like the one with Terry, the retired Baltimore police officer, is very appealing. When Terry says the “pain started subsiding” after taking Lyrica, we imagine that lots of viewers might think that they too might benefit from this drug. Are they paying attention, though, when the voice-over announcer says:

 “Lyrica is not for everyone. It may cause serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts or actions. Tell your doctor right away if you have these: new or worsening depression or unusual changes in mood or behavior, or swelling, trouble breathing, rash, hives, blisters, changes in eye sight including blurry vision, muscle pain with fever, tired feeling or skin sores from diabetes. Common side effects are dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain, and swelling of hands, legs and feet. Don’t drink alcohol while taking Lyrica. Don’t drive or use machinery until you know how Lyrica affects you.”

While you listen to the on-air announcer speed through this long list of complications you see Terry working in his backyard planting and watering pretty flowers. Somehow, the scary side effects seem less worrisome in such a bucolic setting.

Here are some real stories from our website to bring the side effects into focus:

This comes from LCB:

“I started taking Lyrica 10 days ago for RLS [restless leg syndrome] and fibromyalgia. I was taking gabapentin but it had stopped working. I gained 14 pounds on the gabapentin, and now I’ve gained 5 pounds more on the Lyrica. I have edema [fluid retention] as well. I’m sleepy for most of the day and I feel like I’m dragging my body around. I have no energy. My husband tells me I’m irritable with the kids, and that I can’t seem to remember things anymore.

“All of this is quite a drastic change from my usual energetic, tireless self. I don’t like how I feel, and to make the most important point: Lyrica doesn’t seem to help much. I still have tons of pain, and RLS at night. So, I have an appointment with my doctor to ask for a change. I believe that these medicines work very well on some people, but we are all so different. It doesn’t work for me.”


T.  had a very scary story to share:

 “After almost eight years on Cymbalta, it had lost the effectiveness. My doctor added Lyrica to help with fibro. Soon after, I started to have a deep depression and wanted to end the pain that I have lived with for so long. The stress of life was so great, that I attempted suicide. I was put in the hospital for four days.

“At that point, no more meds! The symptoms are what everyone has described. I feel alone and lost in my own brain fog hell. Not one of my family has a clue what a nightmare this is.”


Kathy listed these complicatons:

“I was on the drug eight months for fibromyalgia prescribed by a rheumatologist. I, too, started having problems with eyesight (my eye doctor could NOT update my lenses due to Lyrica causing severe blurriness). I also had memory loss, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. I suffer from chronic constipation due to diverticulitis, and the Lyrica was making this worse. I weaned off over a three-week period. OMG! The withdrawal was/is terrible.

“I am 9 weeks into it, and still have terrible throbbing ongoing headaches, difficulty swallowing, and went from 134 lbs to 118! I feel like I’m dying most of the time. I went to my current neurologist today and was told there were no such symptoms from Lyrica withdrawal!

“Google it, doctor! Please, if anyone reading this is considering taking Lyrica, reconsider! If you have side effects like I did, then decide to go off; you may be looking at a long recovery and NO help from a doctor. They are all denying any problems with this medication. Please read the “Lyrica Withdrawal” posts first!”


Getting off drugs that affect the central nervous system can sometimes be challenging. As we mentioned recently with our post on Abilify, the track record of psychiatry and neurology has been abysmal when it comes to studying sudden withdrawal from commonly prescribed medications. It took years for researchers to discover that when patients suddenly stopped benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan) they often experienced very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ditto for antidepressants like citalopram (Celexa), duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor).

The story of Lyrica (pregabalin) withdrawal is also murky. There is very little in the medical literature on this topic. The prescribing information does mention, though, that some patients report symptoms such as insomnia, nausea, headache, anxiety, sweating or diarrhea if they stop suddenly. The advice: taper the dose over at least a week rather that stopping suddenly. We fear that such information is not always that helpful, especially since there is not much practical information about actual dosage reduction.

LYRICA SIDE EFFECTS:

  • Vertigo, dizziness, unsteadiness, coordination problems, abnormal gait
  • Sleepiness, fatigue
  • Confusion, abnormal thinking, difficulty with attention and concentration, accidental injury
  • Dry mouth
  • Fluid retention in hands or feet, edema
  • Blurred vision, difficulty with eyesight
  • Weight gain,
  • Constipation, gas
  • Pain
  • Skin reaction, rash, dermatitis (requires immediate medical attention!)
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), tremor
  • Blood disorders
  • Withdrawal symptoms, discontinuation syndrome, seizures

 

We recognize that some people with hard-to-treat neuropathy or fibromyalgia may do quite well on Lyrica and not suffer side effects. That’s great. But some patients don’t get much benefit and do suffer complications. For them, Lyrica is not a blessing.

To learn about some other approaches to neuropathy, you may want to check these links about benfotiamine (link 1 and link 2) and alpha lipoic acid.

Please share your own story about Lyrica, neuropathy and what has worked or caused problems for you below in the comment section so others can benefit from your experience.

 

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  1. lynda
    pa
    Reply

    While in hospital for sciatic pain a fractured disc and herniated disc. I was on 200 mg 2 xs a day while in the hospital and sent home with the same. I reduced it to 1 a day then I just can’t bring myself to put more in my body I am sweating, freezing, think I am having a heart attack as I speak.

    I can’t explain the mind twist it does to your thoughts if you think you are going crazy I fully understand why you do. I have a new respect for for my body and what I will put in it I also will ask what are you giving me why and what does it do. I wish I had been advised of what was about to enter my body and had the choice I trusted my Dr I will never ever do it again.

  2. Chad
    Canada
    Reply

    Well I’m in the same boat as most of you, crying swelling sleeplessness, getting off this stuff is HELL as you all know and I have gone the mile as well, I have a new granddaughter so I wanted to be around for her while she grows up. And the depression and dumbfounded mind set is just not worth the loss of seeing her grow up. I’m 48 now and have been on this crap for a few years I think (can’t even remember when I got on it). But I’m off and its like an addiction I want more of it. I’m in a more trying issue now trying to get off the pain patch OMG please help me someone …….

  3. LSL
    Reply

    Hi Jan… I just found this site and your comment. I found your info to be very helpful and wanted to thank you for your post. I have never heard of using Vicks on the feet before to help with issues but later today I will be headed to the store to get some to try tonight. Thank you again for the suggestion and prayers that I will have good results. God Bless. Lynn

  4. MarieH
    Reply

    Hi drm
    Sorry you had such a bad experience with Lyrica! I’m on it 19 mos now, no weight gain for me. Side effects are dizzy drunk-like feelings. Crying and depression, dry mouth, etc. side effects are tolerable. I’m TRYING to wean off. I was on 350 mgs I’m down to 300 mgs took over 15 days to get here. I can’t go the next step (taking away another 25 mgs,) I’m afraid of the withdrawal! I’m trying to wean off, because its not helping with my neuropathic pain. Sigh!
    I was diagnosed with Idiopathic small fiber neuropathy 2 yrs ago. Its predominantly pain, its awful. I’m otherwise “healthy”!! What is Topiramate? did you mean Topamax? I tried Neurontin, it gave me anxiety and palpitations…
    What do you take now for your nerve pain? Do you have neuropathy? PM Doc gave me Trileptal, its old school, hit or miss, anti-seizure medicine that sometimes helps with pain. It’s not working either. How bad was the Lyrica WD for you, you say no more for you, so what do you take for your pain? Gosh, you were on it for just a couple of months. Hope you continue to do well…

  5. CS
    Reply

    Wow, I too feel drunk when I take my 3rd one at night, it helps me sleep and helps with leg pain. I have heard that if you take Methadone while taking Lyrica that it throws you in instant withdrawals, I cannot believe the Dr or hospital did not wean (sp) completely off Methadone before starting you on Lyrica.
    You poor thing no wonder you were in horrible withdrawals. Just remember you cannot have them both in your system, instantly throws you into withdrawals and those are no joke. I hope this helps you.

  6. Aaron
    Reply

    I have been on this drug for two years now. I take 300mg twice daily for nerve and lower back pain. I wish that I would never have been put on the drug and because we are a military family going back to civilian life, it will be about 15 days before our insurance switches over as this is how the coverage’s work. I will just tell anyone reading this that I would agree with everyone who has said that getting off from this drug is hell.
    I ran out of medication about nine months ago and could not get a refill at the time for about three days due to the long weekend. I thought I was going to die from the sweats, chills and near death sickness I felt.
    This drug has caused me to feel confused and forgetful and yes, depressed. Now that we are back to getting back to civilian life, I am hoping to get off from Lyrica with the help of my doctor. Hopefully he or she will listen to me. I will not stop asking until someone will help me.
    I agree that the pain may be worth losing the weight gain that I never experienced until being put on this after my surgeries.
    To feel like I was seriously going to die and all of the restlessness and loss of appetite I experienced goes hand in hand with what I have read from some of you.
    I cannot understand why this drug is being prescribed like it is with all of these stories that are very similar to each other. With the exception of knowing the drug companies are really pushing it and the doctors are going along with it.
    I am glad I came across this site. Hopefully Mayo Clinic will handle this differently for me.
    Good luck to all of you and thank you for the honest experiences you posted.

  7. MarieH
    Reply

    Hi drm
    sorry you had such a bad experience with Lyrica! I’m on it 19 mos now, no weight gain for me. SE are dizzy drunk-like feelings. Crying and depression, dry mouth, etc. SE are tolerable. I’m TRYING to wean off. I was on 350 mgs I’m down to 300 mgs took over 15 days to get here. I can’t go the next step (taking away another 25 mgs,) I’m afraid of the withdrawal! I’m trying to wean off bc its not helping with my neuropathic pain. sigh!
    I was Dx with Idiopathic small fiber neuropathy 2 yrs ago. Its predominantly pain, its awful. I’m otherwise “healthy”!! What is topramate? did you mean topamax? I tryed Neurotin, it gave me anxiety and palpitations…
    What do you take now for your nerve pain? Do you have neuropathy? PM Doc gave me Trileptal, its old school, hit or miss, antisiezure medicine that sometimes helps with pain. It’s not working either. How bad was the lyrica WD for you, you say no more for you, so what do you take for your pain? gosh you were on it for just a couple of mos. Hope you continue to do well…

  8. Judy G
    Reply

    I’vee been on n Lyrica for about a month. Didn’t notice much if any improvements. About a week ago, my hands became swollen. Figured, normal from the OA. Then, my feet started to swell as well. Did all the normal things, elevate, ice, rest and so on. After about a week, I called my doctor. She is weaning me off of it. I went from 150mg 2xdaily, to 15mg 1xdaily, then Tue will be 75 1xdaily, then off by Fri. Since the change, my feet are not as swollen, my hands tingle a bit, migraine headaches, and feel tired and sore all over. I slept all day yesterday. Today, I hurt and have chills. Very little appetite. Only ate to take my meds. These withdrawals are almost worse than fibromyalgia by itself. I’m so tired ofbeing in pain. Plus, my insurance says I’m not disabled enough to not do my job. So, they refuse to pay me, but I can’t work like this. Feeling so broken and broke!

  9. drm
    Reply

    OMG, first of all on lyrica for about two months, after being on gabapentin,Three weeks ago my neurologist upped my dosage to 200 mg per day.
    My skin is dry, my head is spinning with confusion, I thought my cataract came back; my eyes are so blurry, and I blew up like a balloon. The quick weight gain is appalling. With all that being said, I am still in extreme pain and getting headaches.
    I was prescribed Lyrica for the prevention of headaches together with helping with nerve pain. REALLY, still in pain, have headaches and am heavier than ever, most of my clothes don’t fit.
    So weaning off, I agree, this is a joke. Oh let me add that for years I was on topramate, I lost weight and was pain and headache free. I had to be taken off because I developed kidney stones. I agree with so many that Lyrica is a joke. I hate the way it made me look and feel. No more for me……

  10. Marie
    Reply

    Hi PR
    Glad your starting to feel better emotionally. You say you came down with Bells Palsy about two weeks after coming off of the Lyrica. And that you had been struggling with intense sadness ever since. Sorry. I’m a bit confused. Are you sad bc of the BP, or were you depressed from coming off these drugs (Lyrica & Cymbalta)? Did the Med withdrawal cause your Bells Palsy?
    I was Dx with Idiopathic small fiber neuropathy 3 yrs ago. It is a painful and debilitating disease. I take Lyrica, I was on 350 mgs , but am slowly starting to wean off, after taking it for 18 mos I do not feel any better. Cymbalta gave me too much anxiety. I am down to 300 mgs after 13 days. How much Lyrica were you taking? How long did it take you to go off it and hows your itching?
    What kind of Neuropathy do you have. Are you better from your neuropathy now? What do you take for your pain now that you stopped your meds?
    As I wean off the Lyrica, the PM Doc gave me Trileptal, which I’m reluctant to take. But at this point I do not have many choices. I tried Gabapentin (NEUROTIC) and others. Sorry for all the questions. Just trying to get a better understanding about Neuropathy and diff medications from peeps like you that are suffering like me..God Bless You. Thanks!

  11. PR
    Reply

    I was taking lyrica and cymbalta for neuropathy for almost 9 years. I started feeling unusually unhappy last year and I thought it could be from so much time on the lyrica. My doctor looked at me like I was nuts and sent me to a therapist. I stopped taking lyrica in March and then the cymbalta in May, with the help of my therapist.
    I came down with Bells Palsey about two weeks later and have been struggling with intense sadness ever since. I have never experienced depression before and never ever understood it until coming off these drugs. I can not stop itching either.
    As I read through these posts I realize that many of the symptoms that I have been dealing with could well have been these drugs and they were attributed to post chemotherapy brain fog and menapause, sweats, sleeplessness.
    I am finally starting to feel better emotionally, in that I don’t feel like crying constantly. Thank you to everyone for sharing your experiences, it helps to know that this will pass eventually and that I am not imagining these symptoms.

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