a foot above several upright thumb 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 complications:

“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. Shilo
    NC
    Reply

    I’ve been taking Lyrica for fibromyalgia 2 years 150mg day. Started tapering after 2 months now and it’s living a new hell. I recommend nobody take this drug at all. Worst withdrawal symptoms I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I was dying.

  2. Nancy
    MI
    Reply

    Hi, All —

    I have been on Lyrica for about five weeks at 50mg. 2x day. I am starting the weaning process today — I am skipping my first dose now. I had blurred vision, head full of marshmallow, forgetfulness, word loss, uncoordinated feeling, just felt poisoned by this drug. Wish me luck on the withdrawals, as it looks as though I will need it!! I hope that the Facebook page for Lyrica sufferers does start a class action against Pfizer — they should be held accountable for pushing this mess!

  3. Marcia
    Lyman sc
    Reply

    I just took Lyrica for the first time today. I have a fill-in doctor that almost took me off my oxycodone. She took me from 30 mg 4 x daily to 10 mg 2 x daily I switched Drs. They can’t change another doctor’s dosage so the new doctor added the Lyrica. Every time I get out of bed I can’t walk normally. I kind of run from one wall to another. I’m not thinking right. I’M JITTERY. I’LL NEVER TAKE ANOTHER ONE AFTER READING THESE ARTICLES. I’M SCARED TO DEATH RIGHT NOW AND DONT KNOW HOW LONG THIS IS GOING TO LAST. When will I get back to normal? This isn’t something that’s going to last long after just one pill.

  4. Christine H.
    N.C.
    Reply

    I have been on Lyrica for four yrs. I’m trying to get off of it. I feel like bugs are all over me. And am dizzy when I stand. Headaches. Nausea. I took one in the morning and one at night 75mg. And now I am only taking one each morning. And it’s been one week so far. Next week I will take one every other day. This is what my doc. recommended. I feel horrible. If anyone knows of a better way please let me know. Praying I can get off this med. It’s a terrible drug.

  5. Mary
    Orlando
    Reply

    I have been on Lyrica for a week now. No pain relief at all. But instead, my pains are getting worse, especially in the hands. Pain is worse at a rate of 3 times. My dr had started me on 50 mg three time a day and had said he would increase the dosage if 50 mg didn’t work. 50 mg is knocking me off my feet. I wonder if 100mg or 150 mg would leave me sensible. 7 days of suffering while on Lyrica is not worth giving it a try. Gabapentin didn’t work on me either.

    • Marlene
      Arktt5ansas
      Reply

      For 10 years, I took Tramadol for my Neuropathy. I had my symptoms under control, and was able to sleep at night with the help on an OTC sleep aid. As my pain got worse Gabapentin was added to the mix.

      I only took one Tramadol and usually one Gabapentin a night. THEN, I moved to another state and the NP wouldn’t give me Tramadol, instead increasing Gabapentin to 4 @ day.

      It’s not working, and I have gained 40 pounds. Ten days ago, she prescribed Lyrcia. It also doesn’t give me relief. I’m thinking about going off everything. I have to work on losing my weight gain.

  6. Tesss
    B.C.
    Reply

    I’ve been on lyrica for quite some time. My pain is chronic and has been going on for 18yrs & does involve nerve pain.

    My chronic pain issues stem from having 10 abdominal surgeries that started with fixing a messed up hysterectomy, prolapsed fallopian tube on two separate occasions, etc., etc. You get that if anything that could go wrong it did! Worse every time until now 10yrs after the last surgery & there is not a thing they can do to fix me. I live with this pain and drastic change in my life every day.

    Fourteen years ago my gyno put me on the Fentanyl patch. It was life changing. I could actually get out of bed and be with my kids & my husband. It was so awesome! Before that getting out of bed, cleaning house, relations with my husband, were pretty much at nil. So I know & understand how pain, especially chronic pain, can ruin a life, a marriage, a child’s life and relationship with the affected parent.

    That’s why some of us will jump at the opportunity to try something new that may help us, even if it is a small amount. When you lose so much & it wasn’t your fault you do what you can. I say that because I have read some interesting comments that I didn’t know what to think about but then I forget sometimes it’s not only frustrating for the chronic painers to get across how they feel but also frustrating for the ones who do not deal with pain to get it or understand.

    I started on lyrica because after being on 50mcg patch every 3 days for 10yrs, I needed to be bumped up a little. My gyno figured 6-8yrs but I stretched it out to ten.

    But my GP had a real issue putting me up to 75mcg patch every 3 days. He wanted me to go on lyrica. I really didn’t want to. I’d been on gabapentin & IT did nothing for me, so I said I would try his new drug but only if he upped me. I had a whole big list on pros/cons, etc. It was quite the debate. I get why he was being careful & most times it feels like he understands me and my PAIN. It’s there every day, many different layers, all day & night. That day I was questioning where he stood, after being on that drug for a month with no pain relief – then being upped – again nooothing – then upped til I was @ 300 in the am & 300 in the pm. I’ve always been willing to try anything to make sure I made everyone involved I was not ONLY using opiates.

    I’m on topamax, ketoralac, 2 different antidepressants that apparently help with pain to the sum of 11, well now 10 different Meds in the am & 3 in the pm. It’s CRAZY! I know each drug helps a tiny little bit with my horrific chronic pain. Now all these little bits are supposed to all add up and be way better than the three meds I was using before that HARDLY had any side effects for me at all, & actually dealt with my pain.

    You can tell if you yourself (or if you’re a Dr., your patient) really needs them or not. If you don’t need pain meds then there aren’t any pain receptors for the drug to bind to & you get really good and high I’ve been told. If you are in horrible horrific pain the pain receptors are there to bind to the pain meds and use them.

    I’ve been trying to get myself OFF this drug lyrica for a couple months now, and it’s killing me. Thank God my kids are all grown and out of the house or I don’t think I could do it. It’s work just trying to make sure my Hunny has food for supper. Then I’m done for the day AGAIN. my headache is worse than any migraine or migraine hangover I’ve ever had. I’m still having trouble talking, walking; my head is still shaking off & on and this all happened **Boom**.

    When I brought it to my Dr.s attention he was a little confused about what I was trying to tell him but not too concerned. So I started weaning myself, and it slowed down some. I could actually talk again, get words out of my mouth; my balance was back, kind of. That’s when I knew I had to get off this drug, as soon as I could, HaHaHaHa that was a funny thought! Fast with lyrica is not good.

    Anyway, my mind wanders alot which I’m pretty sure I DID on here, sorry. This is another issue I apparently picked up from this drug, AND I really hope it disappears.

    • Kristin
      VA
      Reply

      I have taken Lyrica for 3+yrs (severe lower limb nerve/muscle damage & loss) I take 150mg three times a day I will say it took abt 2-3wks to show effectiveness (dosage changes,etc) for me it’s a miracle medication, BUT certainly heed the warnings and DO NOT stop it suddenly! It will welcome you to a fresh hell, that you never knew existed! Best wishes!

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