A bottle of generic delayed-release Duloxetine (Cymbalta) 30 mg

We have received so many complaints about duloxetine side effects that we have lost count. Far more disturbing are the number of people who tell us how hard it is to discontinue this drug.

Decades ago doctors might have told patients taking a drug like Cymbalta that if they experienced anxiety, irritability or strange sensations after stopping the drug, it was probably their underlying psychological problem returning. Now we know it is withdrawal from the medicine.

The History of Cymbalta:

Cymbalta was originally approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of major depression. It is officially an SNRI-type antidepressant. In doctorspeak that means it is a serotonin-norepinehprine reuptake inhibitor and is somewhat similar to other antidepressants such as Effexor (venlafaxine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine).

The FDA also approved Cymbalta to treat nerve pain associated with diabetes in 2004. In 2007 the drug got a green light for anxiety and in 2008 the FDA agreed that it could ease the discomfort associated with fibromyalgia. It was also approved to treat musculoskeletal pain associated with arthritis and lower back pain in 2010.

In other words, here was a drug that could relieve your blues and your aches and pains. And the drug company that makes Cymbalta (Lilly) has been aggressively marketing it as a good way to deal with chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis. Perhaps you have seen the commercials on TV promoting the pain relieving power of the drug with the slogan “Cymbalta can help.” It sounds almost too good to be true.

Ah…and there is the rub. Although there is a long list of serious side effects mentioned during the commercial, the video images seem quite reassuring and trump the scary message the FDA requires for this medication. So, let’s set the record straight. Here, without visual interference, are a list of potential complications associated with this medication.

Cymbalta (Duloxetine) Side Effects

  • Nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, decreased appetite, vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia, anxiety, tremor
  • Dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness
  • Sweating, hot flashes
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Sexual dysfunction, lowered libido, erection difficulties, lack of orgasm
  • Liver damage
  • Serious skin reactions, rash, hives (requires immediate MD assistance!)
  • Glaucoma
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Bleeding problems
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Interaction with other drugs (leading to serotonin syndrome among other reactions)
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Depressed mood, suicidal thoughts and behavior, suicide

Such a long list of side effects makes your eyes glaze over after the top 3 or 4. That is why we have included stories from real people so you can better understand what these complications feel like.

Stopping Cymbalta:

Even though such side effects are scary, there is another problem with Cymbalta. When people try to stop taking this drug they frequently report unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. An organization (QuarterWatch) that monitors the FDA’s database of serious adverse drug events has noted that:

“We observed a signal for serious drug withdrawal symptoms associated with duloxetine (CYMBALTA), a widely used antidepressant that is also approved to treat arthritis and back pain, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. In the first quarter of 2012 the FDA received 48 case reports of drug withdrawal identifying duloxetine as the suspect drug. They described a wide spectrum of withdrawal effects that began when the patients stopped the drug, including blackouts, suicidal thoughts, tremor, and nausea. Several cases involved hospitalization.

Probing deeper into the scientific record for duloxetine we found that withdrawal symptoms were reported in 44-50% of patients abruptly discontinuing duloxetine at the end of clinical studies for depression, and more than half of this total did not resolve within a week or two. In addition, we identified a serious breakdown at both the FDA and the manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Company, in providing adequate warnings and instructions about how to manage this common adverse effect.”

Doctors have taken to calling this “discontinuation syndrome.” These clinical words do not do justice to what it is like to stop antidepressants like Cymbalta, Effexor (venlafaxine), Paxil (paroxetine), Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) or Zoloft (sertraline) suddenly.

Sudden Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Brain “Zaps” (electric shock-like senstations in the brain)
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, vertigo, feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety, irritability, hostility
  • Nausea, diarrhea, digestive upset
  • Tremor, hands shaking, nerve tingles, strange sensations
  • Fatigue, tiredness, lack of energy
  • Visual disturbances

Again, a list of symptoms does not do this problem justice. Below you will read some stories from people who have posted their comments to this website. We would love to hear your story, positive or negative. Share your experience with Cymbalta or any other antidepressant below.

Should you wish to learn more about dealing with depression through some other strategies, we offer our Guide to Dealing with Depression. You will also find a whole chapter on prescribing mistakes doctors make when treating depression and fibromyalgia in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Stories from Readers

– D.G. shares a tragic story:

“My lovely, young daughter-in law, who was about to celebrate her 29th birthday, was prescribed Cymbalta, Klonopin, and Ambien and has committed suicide.

“She told her physician and her therapist that she’d had thoughts of suicide but no one took her seriously. She suffered from depression, as well as an eating disorder, and had very low body weight. She also used alcohol.

“Please remind your readers of the potentially disastrous effects these chemicals can cause when taken carelessly or in combination with alcohol.”

This from – P.J.:

“I have been on Prozac over the last 20 years off and on and it finally stopped working. The last time I took it about 2 years ago I was taking the generic from Barr – the blue and white capsule. I was feeling as if I were in the deepest dark hole there ever was.

“My doctor put me on Cymbalta from which I had a lot of side effects such as palpitations, feeling constant dread, panic attacks, sweats, lightheadedness and general feeling of not being well.

“She added Abilify which put me over the edge. I was in the worst depression I have ever been in. Finally after living like this for several months, I asked to be put back on Prozac. I was taking the generic from Sandoz. When the prescription ran out I ended up on the big blue and white capsules from Barr.

“Over the last couple of weeks it has been constant crying spells, arguing with everyone and feeling pretty low. I talked to my doctor and she wrote the prescription for Sandoz only generic. The blue and white capsules are like taking a placebo. My doctor said she had had other patients who complained of the same thing and she had to write prescriptions for a certain generic or name brand.”

– R.P. says:

“I took Cymbalta for 3 days and thought I’d go nuts. I’m off it now and refuse to try any other drug like this. My main complaint was extreme hot flashes that estrogen wouldn’t help. I thought I’d be given Prozac, but was given Cymbalta instead. It was a rough 3 days and I stopped it last night. I am extremely tired yet cannot sleep at night. I think I was sweating even worse and my legs started feeling like I had Lyme disease again. And to be honest, within those 3 days of taking it, I didn’t contemplate suicide, but I had this crappy attitude of “who would care?”

– Nancy relates how hard it was to get off Cymbalta:

“It took me 18 months to get off Cymbalta, with no doctor’s help. I can hardly believe that doctors have no exit strategy for this dangerous drug. I had to find this out on my own from reading and as soon as I weaned off that – about a month, the tinnitus that had occurred decreased almost completely. No doctor told me this.”

— J.K. shares a parent perspective:

“My daughter experienced severe side effects when trying to come off Cymbalta – she had nausea, vomiting, lost peripheral vision for 24-48 hours, had shaking, etc. This was while she was doing a clinical in a hospital for college. Had she known she would have stayed on it until after clinical. I called the manufacturer and they acted like there were no such side effects from withdrawal.

“She too took apart the capsules and it took awhile, but finally she is free from that drug. I think it is a crime that the manufacturers don’t publish more detailed information concerning withdrawal. They could even make money selling a one month or two month step down prescription so individuals aren’t taking the capsules apart themselves.”

– P.C. Tells what it is like to switch around from one drug to another:

“I just turned 52 today. I went on a very low dose of Zoloft about 8 years ago to treat generalized anxiety disorder. It really did help for a long time. I recently have been pretty depressed (however I can cover it up really well) and my psychiatrist switched me to Effexor which was terrible for me. Now I’m trying Cymbalta which has not done anything either except make me feel more anxious and headachy and weird.”

“I am a registered nurse and I do not understand what the long term effects of these meds are and I am concerned. I really want to get off and see what I can do naturally for myself.”

– K.T. tells what it is like to try to stop Cymbalta:

“Getting off Cymbalta is challenging but not impossible. I, too, experienced the light-headedness, dizziness, and “brain zaps.” I described it as being able to “hear my eyes move.” It sounded like the light sabers on Star Wars. Very strange and disconcerting.

“The key is to do it very very slowly. Take the capsules apart and begin by removing 5 or 10 of the tiny balls inside. Do this for a week or so, then slowly increase the amount you remove each week or two as you can tolerate it.

“Your doctor will probably be no help at all. Mine wasn’t. He instructed me to wean off over a two to three week period and I almost lost my mind. I did it myself over about a YEAR or more. Be patient. I am completely off now and feeling GOOD.”

– Karen’s story:

“I was prescribed Cymbalta ‘off-label’ to manage fibromyalgia pain When I stopped taking it because it wasn’t delivering on the promised effect of reducing my pain, I became so horribly depressed that I required hospitalization as I had become SUICIDAL!

“I will NEVER take another anti-depressant for an off-label purpose….such as Elavil/amitriptyline as a “sleep aid” which is very commonly prescribed.

“I believe it should be criminal to prescribe ANY drug for a purpose other than the one it was approved to treat.”

– R.H. and Erectile Dysfunction:

“I’m a 76 year old man, my libido was very low. Taking Cymbalta for peripheral neuropathy added ED as a side affect of the drug. I had a testosterone blood test; it was 1/3 what the minimum should be. So I’m taking Androgel to raise testosterone levels and it is magic. I have great libido now and am working on minimizing the Cymbalta pills. In the meantime I have been prescribed Cialis for the ED. Each pill solves the sex problem for a couple of days.”

– M.O. on stopping Cymbalta:

“I have the exact symptoms as everyone else and it’s been a week. I only took Cymbalta for 2 months, but the side effects from stopping it are horrible. My doctor didn’t, nor did anyone else tell me, about any side effects and I did read the insert. Most of the time the listed side effects of meds don’t bother me, so I figured no problem.

“From reading other posts on this website and on other sites, the drug seems to affect every person the same way. I would never have taken it for my neck pain if I had known about the likelihood of side effects. The worst part for me is the dizziness, the brain zings and the sudden burst of tears for no reason. I would never take this drug again. I think the FDA needs to do longer studies on all drugs and be honest with their findings and that doctors should be honest and tell their patients what really happens when you take Cymbalta.”

Please add your own experience below in the comment section.

Revised 1/28/16

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  1. mayra

    I have been taking duloxetine for some time now. I was first given 30mg a day. It did not help anything at all. I was then moved up to 60mg a day, i honestly felt no difference and my DR made me feel like i was annoying. I myself then upped my own dose to 120 mg a day. I see no difference at all. This never worked for me. The only reason i continue to take them now is because of the side effects of trying to stop it. I have hot flashes and pretty strong brain zaps which sometimes disorient me for a second. I have also read that nightmares are a side effect and i can confirm that. Nightmares are definitely a side effect. I have 4 or 5 nightmares every night.

  2. Jeannette

    I am in the UK. I want to take legal action against the mental health team. Whilst on this drug for 2 years I developed insomnia. I was also on lamotrogine and had been on olanzipine. I wasn’t sure if the insomnia was left over from the Olanzipine, the lamotrogine or the Duloxetine. I came off the lamotrogine, and still the insomnia persisted. I was told it was unlikely to be the drugs but, lo and behold, when I took an overdose to try and make me sleep (stupid) I didn’t take the Duloxetine for a day, and that night I got an actual night’s sleep.

    My Dr. then took me off 90mg cold turkey, and a couple of days later my mood became hyper manic, and the insomnia came back so then I’d get super low and have to call the crisis team due to feeling so distressed. No one had any clinical knowledge so they would put it all on me and tell me to do breathing exercises. Eventually after 2 weeks the CMHT called me, and I was curious. I reported this elevated mood and increased spending and other hypermanic symtoms pretty soon after their onset, and no one called me back until I had to make a distress call to the crisis team.

    I’m not sure if I’m ok almost 16 weeks down the line. My sleep is a bit erratic. I struggle to sleep until about 3am and, luckily, I’m not working. My short term memory is screwed. I constantly lose things. Put them down, forget where I put them. It’s so frustrating. The GPs and CMHT were useless, and my trust in doctors has gone. This drug was the toughest of any I’ve ever been on to come off of, and there was no understanding of the symptoms from withdrawal. I was told “you just have to ride it out.”

    I’m totally baffled that so-called medical professionals are so clueless. These drugs stole 10 years of my life and made me totally unfit for work. I lost my income, my quality of life, friends and nearly my family due to side effects and withdrawal effects. I wasn’t better on them. I was worse. The only thing that helped me was CAT therapy. The drugs just screwed me up. So thanks, makers of these drugs. I’m glad you are making billions out of this misery!!

    I’m not all the way there yet but I feel much better off them all than I ever did taking them. They weren’t the answer for me at all. And the more I learn about them the more I want them banned. The stuff the doctors tell us isn’t even credited. Serotonin deficiency. Chemical imbalance. Show me the evidence, please. I won’t ever go back to a doctor unless it’s for something simple that they are actually qualified to treat. GPs prescribing SSRIs are getting people into hot water. They don’t understand what the drugs do at all. Ask them. They are utterly clueless. It’s criminal.

  3. Eli

    I had been on 60 mg of Cymbalta for depression for a couple years. Before that I’d tried probably 20 other meds (they finally diagnosed me with treatment-resistant depression, and I had ECT treatments which actually DID help and probably saved my life). Cymbalta wasn’t working so well for the depression anymore, but since I’d also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and have widespread osteoarthritis and issues with my back, my “wise” doctor upped my dose to 90mg for a couple months and then to 120 mg a day (60 mg 2x/day).

    I began to have horrible issues with sweating, even when just sitting still, and would have to change my sheets after having horrible night sweats. I’d been having muscle spasms – some painful, and others just a nuisance and thought it was the fibromyalgia. Had I been reading more of these stories and articles – I would have realized it was the Cymbalta.

    A few months ago, I changed doctors, and we started to reduce my dosage after having had no relief of any of the symptoms Cymbalta was supposed to be helping with. I got down to 30 mg / day… and though I didn’t realize it at the time I was already having withdrawal symptoms. Having multiple conditions and taking multiple medications can make this very difficult to tease out which symptoms are from what.

    I thought I’d picked up a virus because I felt SO horrible, but actually after doing some symptom searches, I realized I’m was in full blown withdrawal now – tingling in my hands and feet, brain ‘zaps’, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness so bad that I lost balance regularly and have run into walls and door frames often.

    I’ve contemplated going back on a low dose because this withdrawal is now going into week 3, and I feel frightened, alone, and hopeless. I’ve seen the comments where people are opening capsules and reducing gradually by making in-between type doses – and I may try this to help ease these symptoms.

    I just hope that if anyone is contemplating taking this medication, they are able to read some of these accounts from actual patients – the drug companies and doctors don’t seem to understand or take seriously what this drug is doing to people. I can’t believe they’ve been expanding its on-label uses and getting more people trapped. And no authority has called them on the issues of withdrawal symptoms. These don’t seem to be just a few fringe cases – they seem to be pervasive.

    Please remember: you are your own best advocate, and you have the right to say NO to your doctors and demand alternate options to treatment.

  4. jane
    south australia

    I’ve been on duloxetine for months now with many side effects, the main one being its damaging my liver. So my doctor and I have decided I’m best to go off completely. I was taking it for nerve pain. My doctor told me the withdrawals will be the worst you can get and has told me to take 1 diazepam 3 times a day to help. I’m only on day 2, and withdrawals have started but the diazepam has helped a lot. She ( my doctor) has fully prepared me for what I am in for when it comes to withdrawals and has told me to ring her or go back to see her if it gets too bad or go to local hospital. I guess I am lucky I have her support and my husband to get my though it.

  5. Bill

    Have been on duloxetine for several years as well as welbutrin at the same time. From feeling socially unacceptable, to anger, to lost desire for doing anything, my world has become somewhat strange. Unlike many on here I was well aware of the dangers of stopping medications like this by going “cold turkey”. So I went to my medical specialist to find another antidepressant to at least try. I was prescribed going from a 120mg of duloxatine down to 90mg for 5 days then to 60mg for 5 days then to 30 mg for 8 days and then going to using Paxil.

    I’m at my 3rd day of taking the 90mg and am already feeling side effects. Light-headedness and dizziness are already coming on. A side note; I’m already on other meds that also cause light-headed feelings and sometimes dizziness. So at the moment I’m getting similar reactions from a total of three different meds. Two more days until I start the 60mg regimen. If it worsens my situation I’ll assure you that I’m going back in to discuss this with my specialist. How those of you that just quit taking it and dealt with the side effects is beyond me.

    If going from 120mg down to 90 is going to cause this dizzy/light headed situation- going to the 60mg is not a future I feel so sure about.
    For those only considering getting off an antidepressant, please don’t just quit taking them. Talk to a doctor first and find the best, and safest way to go about it.

    I wish all of you the best of health now and in the future!

  6. Steve
    Yorktown, VA

    I have been on Cymbalta for about 18 months. I started with 30 mg daily. It had been suggested by my neurologist for nephropathy related pain.

    I had trouble with it. I had had discussions with my doctor for about a year about Cymbalta, never really wanting to use it due to the reported side effects. I have had problems with DVTs and PEs, so I was on blood thinners. my pharmacologist was very helpful in educating me about the weaning off process which I did once after being on it for 60 days with no positive effect.

    I tried amphetamine which was very harsh (in terms of side effects). I was never awake when I stopped moving. I weaned off of this and was talked into trying Cymbalta again. I did, initially, no problems, jumped to 60 mg daily. For about a year I did get good results for nephropathy related pain, but for about six months it became increasingly less effective. At the same time I noted that some of the brain fog, less ambition to do things, and libido issues were increasing.

    I had been hospitalized for a hematoma on the rectos sheath (stomach muscle) that had ruptured and cause serious internal bleeding. My INR levels were high at the time, and it was written off as the cause of both the hematoma and the bleeding.

    Meanwhile, after having no issues will maintaining the proper therapeutic INR levels, the last 4 months my INR checks have been all over the place. So I asked about discontinuing the Cymbalta. I wasn’t getting the same relief, and it seems that nothing had been right about me in recent months which coincided with my erratic blood thinner levels and decreased libido. Also after my hospitalization for internal bleeding I caused me to question why I had these undetected hematomas and others.

    I’ve gone from being highly physically active to no exercise at all and my weight has dramatically increased despite following a regimented diet plan. Some of the issues are related to lifestyle changes, others seemed to be connected to increased changes to my responses to the medication. I am in the process of weaning off the Cymbalta. I am experiencing some of the side effects mentioned. I had planned out a weaning off process with my doctor for about 8 weeks. I’m completely off, seem to have already started to feel more myself. Still have some minor effects that I expected.

    I am convinced more than ever the issues I experiences, all the same as reported here, and the experiences I’ve recently had with internal bleeding and blood thinners are all related to the use of Cymbalta. Unlike many who’s reported here, I’ve had good advise about weaning off but none have connected some of the problems I’ve had like the folks reporting here online. Glad I made the decision to come off Cymbalta. Should had done it sooner. I believe it is likely inappropriate for those on blood thinners.

  7. Stacy

    I have been on Cymbalta for about 7 weeks. Felt fine at first but all of a sudden I got anxiety X 10 while driving and had to pull over and be picked up and taken to work. Ever since then I feel anxiety when driving only. I decided it’s the Cymbalta, as I have never had this feeling EVER. I am working to wean off of this if it’s the last thing I do to get my peace back. Any weaning off tips appreciated.

  8. Jan
    Portland, Oregon

    About 3.5 weeks ago after discussion with my doctor, I decided that I would like to discontinue Cymbalta. She had prescribed this for me to help with my fibromyalgia symptoms, and I do think it helped. However, I have very complicated health issues that have resulted in a handful of pills in the morning and evening. I’d been experiencing new complications that after lots of tests and scans had not resulted in any further diagnosis or help. I began to wonder if all these meds were warring with each other, creating additional health issues and wanted to eliminate something.

    After my primary care doctor and neurologist talked, they selected the Cymbalta as the place to start and set up a plan to slowly wean me off the drug. Six days ago I took the last last dose, and have felt increasingly bad. I’m hot one moment, freezing the next, short of breath, and have diarrhea. I’ve been crying a lot, which I discounted. I lost my husband of 46 years, 2 and a half years ago and find birthdays (both his and mine), when I miss him a lot. But this is way beyond that. I had been feeling stronger and felt like I was moving forward with this new chapter in my life. I’m beyond exhausted and yet have had trouble sleeping. I feel horrible. Today has been the worst, which is why I started searching. I thought about what had changed in this last week – no Cymbalta! Not exactly sure what to do now! Suggestions anyone?

  9. Shelly H.
    Vancouver, WA

    I have only been on Cymbalta for a month with bad side effects of lethargy, nausea and generally not feeling better. Going from 20mg up to 60mg. Was weaned off over a two week period. The day after I totally stopped I began having even more brain zaps then when I was on it. Uncontrollable crying. Lethargy so bad that my husband had to stay home to help me care for our special needs daughter. It’s been 3 days and I am still having horrible withdrawal effects. I hope that I feel better soon. If this drug is causing such severe withdrawal effects after such a short time being on it, I can’t imagine what people are going thru who have been on it for a long period of time. I’m upset that my psychiatrist even thought this drug would be a good fit for a person already in a depression. I think that the big pharma companies have too strong a hold on what the doctors prescribe. It always seems to be about the money and not what would be best for the patient. That’s my 2 cents on that.

  10. Rosemarie

    I have been taking Cymbalta for almost 4 months for Fibromyalgia and neuralgia pain in the base of my skull. Since the first few days of taking it, I have had really bad diarrhea and sometimes stomach pain and soreness. No over-the-counter anti diarrhea product is helping me. I don’t know what’s worse – pain or intense diarrhea. My doctor doesn’t seem to take my seriously when I tell her how bad I feel. I am glad to see posted stories of other Cymbalta users. I am going to ween off this medication as others have suggested. Doctors don’t have a clue and who knows you better than yourself. I am going to research natural remedies for my pain. I’m done!

  11. Jan

    After many years of taking a low dose of effexor following some depression, a physiatrist (a doctor who also treats patients for pain) switched me to Cymbalta to help relieve lower back pain following an ineffective double spinal fusion. I experienced brain zaps during the whole time (4 yrs.) while taking cymbalta. I told my internist about the brain zaps and was basically ignored. If I had been warned about the real side effects of this drug, I never would have taken it.

    Cymbalta did nothing for my pain. The brain zaps became so frequent, along with periods of brain fog and hot flashes ( I’m in my 70’s), I decided to wean myself off of it by opening up the generic capsules and removing 3 of the 12 balls inside, taking the remaining little balls each day for one week. The next week I removed 3 more and stayed on that dose for one week. By the end of one month, I had gotten off of the drug completely.

    The brain zaps are still there but have diminished in intensity. The same with the hot flashes. The muscle pain is worse. I have been experiencing wide emotional swings and general feelings of anger and hostility. I have been Cymbalta-free for 2 weeks now and refuse to take this dangerous drug again.

    Drug makers are able to get away without disclosing all of the true side effects of their drugs, and I am grateful for sites that enable patients to warn others as well as educate themselves about what big pharma is doing to us!

  12. Laurel
    western new york state

    I was put on Cymbalta for pain relief from peripheral neuropathy while on chemotherapy. It has only been about two months but as chemo has proceeded, so did my pain and as a result, the dosage has been increased. After reading all of these horrible side effects, I have to say that I am worried.

  13. Sandra G.

    After being on this drug for 15 years I decided to get off the 60 mgs.daily Cymbalta. I suffered a car wreck in 2004 which left me disabled. I was put on this drug immediately. Jump forward to 2018. I realized it was time to get off of some of the drugs that were no longer of benefit. Withdrawal has been hard but each passing day it’s lessened. The electric shock in my head was frightening but it did get less intense. So it’s been two weeks, and I am feeling so much better. Taking things one day at a time. And self education, watching, and researching all information I can find has helped me get more understanding. Sharing my experience with others and learning what they have experienced has helped immensely. Thank you.

    • Nancy
      new york

      I’ve been on Cymbalta for 6 years with the current dosage at 60MG for about 3 years. I don’t think it’s working anymore and would like to wean off.

      How should I go about doing this??

      Your advice is appreciated.

      • Terry Graedon

        Weaning off slowly, over months rather than weeks, is better for most people, with very gradually decreasing doses. Ask you doctor to supervise or to refer you to someone else with experience who can help you.

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