Feet_Tacks

Have you seen 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.”

This 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 because of numbness, pain or weakness
  • Intense stabbing jolts of pain, especially in the evening
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Poor stomach emptying, leading to feelings of fullness and bloating
  • Bladder problems
  • 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 or your experience with neuropathy and what has worked for you below so others can benefit from your experience.

 

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  1. arman
    iran
    Reply

    I was to lazy to do anything since last year some of my friends where taking lyrica so I tried once. It would make you super hyper talk more eat more .. walk on the clouds … I took lyrica 300 for 2 months I felt am losing memory. So I stopped right away, at first 3 days I had pain all over my body just like I left morphine now I get big dizziness in my head heart burn nervous problems like any one talk to me I yell at him . Last 2 weeks been like hell for me. No doctor can help me here… They just give me an injection to put me to sleep. I am still the same condition. What shall I do? Any advice or help to recover? I am really suffering from this nervous pain. Recently got problem with stomach its burning badly.

  2. David
    Tampa, FL
    Reply

    I’ve been on lyrica for at least a few years, taking 50 mg. about every other day to help with the nerve pain in my legs. The worst side effect was lack of concentration.

    Recently, I thought if I boosted the intake, the pain I have in my hip/leg area would subside, but it only caused more side effects like pain around my eyes, lack of focus, and dry mouth with sores. So, I chose to get off of it and asked if I could switch to neurontin.

    The doctor prescribed for me 300 mgs. three times daily but after the first two doses, I was barely able to function. A state of confusion that was impossible to shake rushed over me. So, I dropped that too, and now I am facing the withdrawals of whatever either or both of those medications have caused me, mostly depersonalization, dizziness and confusion. The mouth sores are beginning to go away.

    I take two other meds as well, xanax and hydrocodone, for fibromyalgia, neither of which I am willing to get off, as they do help me to cope with the severe all-over-body pain that hits me every time I awaken in the morning, and at times through the day. Xanax helps me to deal slightly with the dizziness, but I know I am likely headed for an extended withdrawal from lyrica since I was on it for so long.

    I don’t recommend either neurontin or lyrica, as they both have side effects that aren’t worth the effort to try. My remaining option, which I’ve used through the years, is to get cortisone shots for the nerve pain.

    All of the above is risky, I know. But having pain is a terrible existence that can’t go away by itself, I’m afraid.

  3. Tammy
    Michigan
    Reply

    I have Fibromyaligia, my pain started in my knees and soon after it became widespread. My family doctor had me on Cymbalta for over a year with no results, so she sent me to a rheumatologist. I was given Lyrica plus Cymbalta,sleeping pills, pain and depression medications. I don’t feel like myself anymore, the medications have taken over. Lyrica is my worse nightmare. Night sweats, weight gain, headaches and blurred vision.

    My doctor refuses to discuss changing any of my medications. I agree my pain is better but all the side affects are just as bad if not worse. Please consider all the side affects when offered Lyrica, not all medications are equal.

  4. wanda
    houston
    Reply

    After taking 8 capsules of Lyrica, I had to stop. It was making me feel awful. I could not even go to work for 4 days. I could not get out of bed. Lyrica is not for my stabbing pain. After spending a $100 for the medicine I would rather live with the pain than take Lyrica. It is the weekend so I can’t talk to my doctor. I will call him Monday am. I hope I won’t have any withdrawal problems. Good luck with it.

  5. Debbie
    Melb Australia
    Reply

    I have been on Lyrica for about 1 year, very low dose 75mg for nerve pain in the beginning it was working a treat, but slowely the side effects got to much to bear, blurred vision, altered speech, altered mind set, headaches, weight gain. My Dr and I decided it was time for me to come off it.
    Well what a nightmare it has been, nausea, diarrhea, major headaches, chills, feeling like I have been hit by a bus.
    I had no idea till I googled that coming off Lyrica was going to be so hard, please tell me there is light at the end of the tunnel, I still have to work and function like a human being.
    Its been 2 weeks since my last lyrica and I want to hear that feeling so sick wont last for ever.
    Thanks for listening.

  6. lisareagan
    FL
    Reply

    Thought it was great at first. Finally got some sleep, had a lot less pain and felt calm and normal finally, but then the swelling came and horrible blurred vision. This was after taking it only two weeks. I decided to taper off slowly. Well, I just about lost my mind. Now I feel even worse than I started. So what I do is take it every now and then when I just can’t stand it. Only two days a month if that. I’m so scared of feeling that horror again. I feel for the poor animals and souls they decided to experiment on with this drug. I guess we are the guinea pigs now. I do not understand all of these maintenance drugs that have unbearable side effects. I guess it’s about MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!

  7. Jenn
    Woodstock Ont
    Reply

    I have an autoimmune disease that has been diagnosed as Lupus or Lupus like and suffer from other diseases due to the Lupus such as Raynaud’s disease, spastic colon… To name a few. Due to all of the above forementioned I suffer greatly with chronic and quite severe at time bone/ joint pain…

    My Dr. Prescribed Lyrica to assist my pain medication in controlling my pain… I honestly couldn’t tell you if has made much of a difference in my pain levels what I can tell you is this… Without a doubt in my mind I can honestly tell you that to stop taking Lyrica suddenly can make a person extremely ill and seeing as the withdrawal from it is as bad as suddenly coming off of opiates which anyone who’s lived through that hell knows exactly what I mean…

    The shakes, the sweats, rls, sleeplessness and vomiting terribly… Therefore my suggestion from one chronically ill patient to I hope many others who may read this I would not suggest to anyone that you should suddenly quit taking this medication. Also just a quick note.. If at any time for any reason you are suffering from the horrific withdrawal off opiates that Dr’s should be telling patients just how much Lyrica can assist with the withdrawal drastically…. It will help keep away the shakes, the sweats, in my case it has helped me sleep which is almost impossible when coming off of opiates…

    I have found unbelievable relief from Lyrica during a difficult time- greatly helps!!! I hope maybe the things I have written can help someone else in a time of need

  8. Lois
    San Diego, Ca
    Reply

    Hi Everyone. I have been taking lyrica 300 for 3 yrs. I have gained over 40 lbs on this stuff, but it helped great with my nerve pain assoc with a pinched nerve. I had surgery 8/4/14 to ‘make room’ for my nerve and started weaning off of lyrica a month later. I decided on the surgery as my depression became so bad I thought I would commit suicide. I also had very vivid dreams, although not scary. Well, the weaning off has been probably too quick and it’s sometimes annoying. I have itching that travels along my blood stream and will settle in a certain area until i can’t take it anymore! I also noticed a rash on my upper left arm that is not going away. I have been off lyrica completely since 11/2/14. This rash on my arm still flares up during the day. It has been there for almost a month. Anyone else experience this?

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