Neurontin vs Cymbalta

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For patients dealing with neuropathic pain, anxiety disorders, or depressive conditions, certain medications can influence the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain and help manage symptoms. Neurontin (gabapentin) and Cymbalta (duloxetine) are two such drugs often prescribed for these conditions. They both impact different neurotransmitters but have similar effects in reducing discomfort and improving mood stability in patients. Neurontin is classified as an anticonvulsant that works by affecting chemicals and nerves in the body involved with seizure activities and various types of pain caused by neurological issues. On the other hand, Cymbalta falls under both a selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI), primarily influencing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine to maintain mental balance.

What is Neurontin?

Gabapentin (the generic name for Neurontin) was first introduced as an anticonvulsant but has been found to be effective in the treatment of certain types of nerve pain. It was first approved by the FDA in 1993. Neurontin works by altering electrical activity in the brain and influencing the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that sends signals throughout your nervous system. This drug is commonly used for conditions such as postherpetic neuralgia and epilepsy.

On the other hand, Duloxetine (Cymbalta's generic name) belongs to a newer class of antidepressants known as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Approved by the FDA in 2004, Cymbalta increases levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine by preventing their reabsorption into brain cells. In addition to depression, it is also prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain associated with diabetes and chronic musculoskeletal pain.

In comparison to Gabapentin which primarily influences GABA production, Duloxetine effect on two different neurotransmitters can result in more side effects; however it tends to have broader application due its dual action.

What conditions is Neurontin approved to treat?

Neurontin is approved for the treatment of a variety of health conditions:

  • Epilepsy, specifically partial seizures

  • Postherpetic neuralgia, pain after healing of shingles rash Cymbalta, on the other hand, is FDA-approved for:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Chronic musculoskeletal pain

How does Neurontin help with these illnesses?

Neurontin, also known as gabapentin, helps to manage neuropathic pain by reducing the abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It mimics the activity of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that acts as a natural 'nerve-calming' agent. It's used to control seizures and nerve pain caused by conditions like shingles or spinal cord injuries. By simulating GABA's action, Neurontin prevents nerve excitability that can lead to severe pain episodes.

On the other hand, Cymbalta (duloxetine) is an antidepressant that manages depression and anxiety disorders but can also treat certain types of chronic pain. It works by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine - two neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation and pain perception - in your brain’s synapses. These chemicals help transmit signals between nerve cells, improving communication within your nervous system which subsequently alleviates symptoms associated with these disorders.

Both medications are effective for managing different types of neurological conditions depending on individual patient needs and they work differently within our bodies due to their unique mechanisms.

What is Cymbalta?

Cymbalta, also known by its generic name duloxetine, is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). This means it increases the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by reducing their reabsorption. It also has minor effects on inhibiting dopamine reuptake. Cymbalta was first approved by the FDA in 2004 for major depressive disorder and diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain. As an SNRI, Cymbalta does not act like Neurontin (Gabapentin), which primarily affects voltage-gated calcium channels within the brain to reduce nerve sensitivity. The action of Cymbalta on both serotonin and norepinephrine can prove beneficial for treating depression as well as anxiety disorders, particularly those unresponsive to "typical" SSRI drugs. Its side effect profile differs slightly from that of SSRIs due to its dual action; while common side effects such as nausea are shared with SSRIs, others like excessive sweating are more commonly associated with Cymbalta use.

What conditions is Cymbalta approved to treat?

Cymbalta has been endorsed by the FDA for the treatment of several conditions, which include:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic musculoskeletal pain

How does Cymbalta help with these illnesses?

Serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters that play significant roles in mood regulation, anxiety, sleep, and pain perception. Low levels of these neurotransmitters have been linked to depression and chronic pain disorders. Cymbalta works by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine available in the brain, thereby helping to alleviate symptoms of depression or chronic pain. Its actions on both serotonin and norepinephrine systems may be a key factor in why it can be effective for treating both mood disorders like depression as well as certain forms of chronic pain such as neuropathic pain or fibromyalgia. Unlike Neurontin which is primarily used to treat seizures and nerve-related issues, Cymbalta's wider range of action makes it a more versatile medication — it could potentially benefit patients who do not respond adequately to medications focused solely on one system (such as those targeting only serotonin), or when combined with other treatment modalities.

How effective are both Neurontin and Cymbalta?

Both gabapentin (Neurontin) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) have been proven effective in managing different types of neuropathic pain, with the FDA approving their use in 1993 and 2004 respectively. Since they act on different neurotransmitters, they may be prescribed under varying circumstances. A direct comparison of gabapentin and duloxetine for diabetic peripheral neuropathy was carried out in a double-blind clinical trial in 2013; both drugs showed similar efficacy at alleviating symptoms as well as promising safety profiles.

A review conducted in 2016 found that gabapentin is effective at treating nerve pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia from the first week of treatment onwards; its side effect profile is generally tolerable compared to many other anticonvulsants used for this purpose. It has become one of the most frequently prescribed medications worldwide for this specific condition. The dose showing optimal efficacy is thought to be 1800 mg/day divided into three doses, although higher doses may be used based on individual patient response.

A separate meta-analysis performed in 2015 indicated that duloxetine seems more effective than placebo when treating painful diabetic neuropathy or fibromyalgia. Nonetheless, it's typically considered a second-line treatment option after SSRIs or SNRIs due to potential side effects including nausea, dry mouth, somnolence, constipation among others. Most research involves using duloxetine alongside another medication like pregabalin or amitriptyline so data confirming its efficacy as a stand-alone treatment isn't robust yet. However, it might still be an optimal choice for patients who didn't respond well to first-line treatments thanks to its unique dual action on serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibition.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Neurontin typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Neurontin typically start at 300 mg/day for adults, and can increase up to 600 mg three times a day for treating nerve pain. In children over the age of 3, it's usually started at a lower dosage based on weight (10-15 mg/kg/day), divided into three doses per day. Dosage may be increased after a few weeks if there is no response. The maximum dosage that should not be exceeded in adults is 3600 mg/day and in children (over the age of 3) it depends upon body weight.

On the other hand, Cymbalta oral doses range from 20–60 mg twice daily or as much as120mg once daily. For most conditions including depression and anxiety disorders, an effective dose often starts around 40-60mg per day but your doctor will tailor your dose based on your specific needs and response to treatment. Seniors over the age of 65 years old might require careful monitoring due to kidney function considerations when taking Cymbalta.

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At what dose is Cymbalta typically prescribed?

Cymbalta treatment typically begins with a dosage of 60 mg/day. Depending on the patient's response, this dose can be increased to up to 120 mg/day, taken as one dose in the morning or evening. Some patients may benefit from starting at 30 mg once daily for one week before increasing the dosage to 60 mg daily. If there is no improvement in symptoms after a few weeks, your doctor might decide to increase the dose further; however, doses above 120mg per day are not recommended. It's important not only to follow your doctor's prescribed dosing schedule but also not abruptly stop taking Cymbalta without medical advice due to potential withdrawal effects.

What are the most common side effects for Neurontin?

Common side effects of Neurontin (gabapentin) can include:

  • Dizziness, drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Unsteadiness or lack of coordination
  • Fatigue and general weakness
  • Tremor or shaking
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Memory problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating
  • Swelling in the hands or feet

On the other hand, Cymbalta (duloxetine) can cause:

  • Nausea, dry mouth, constipation
  • Decreased appetite leading to weight loss
  • Sleep disturbances such as insomnia
  • Increased sweating
  • Dizziness upon standing up (orthostatic hypotension)
  • Decreased libido (sex drive), abnormal ejaculation, impotence in men
  • Rash
  • Fatigue

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Neurontin?

While choosing between Neurontin and Cymbalta, it's important to consider the potential side effects:

  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives, difficulty breathing, swelling in your face or throat
  • Vision problems: seeing double, blurred vision
  • Changes in heart rhythm: fast or pounding heartbeats
  • Breathing troubles such as shortness of breath and feeling like you might pass out
  • Neurological issues - severe weakness, tremors (shaking), loss of coordination/balance.

In rare cases with Cymbalta usage:

  • Hyponatremia (low sodium levels) symptoms - confusion, headache, slurred speech; -Severe skin reactions – a red/purple rash that spreads with blisters/peeling.

Symptoms associated with serotonin syndrome can occur which include agitation/restlessness/hallucinations/fever/fast heartbeat/muscle stiffness/twitching/loss of coordination/vomiting/diarrhea.

If any of these symptoms occur after starting either Neurontin or Cymbalta treatment immediately seek medical help.

What are the most common side effects for Cymbalta?

When taking Cymbalta, some common side effects which may be experienced include:

  • Dry mouth or excessive sweating
  • Nausea, loss of appetite, constipation
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle aches or pains
  • Weight changes (loss mainly)
  • Blurred vision
  • Urinary frequency -Anxiety or restlessness.

Less frequent but more serious symptoms such as confusion, hostility and agitation should also be monitored for when taking this medication. In rare cases, patients might experience rash. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you encounter any unusual reactions after starting a new medication.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Cymbalta?

While Cymbalta is generally well-tolerated, it does come with potential side effects which can be serious in some cases. If you have any of the following symptoms after starting Cymbalta, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: skin rash or hives; difficulty breathing; swelling in your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising under the skin
  • Changes in urination patterns such as not being able to pass urine at all or passing more than usual
  • High serotonin levels leading to agitation, hallucinations, fever, fast heart rate
  • Liver problems that may cause right upper belly pain, loss of appetite and yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Changes in blood pressure causing blurred vision and unsteadiness
    Remember that these are rare but severe side effects. Most people taking Cymbalta do not experience these issues. However, if you notice any other changes after beginning treatment with this medication - particularly mood swings - contact a healthcare professional promptly.

Contraindications for Neurontin and Cymbalta?

Both Neurontin (gabapentin) and Cymbalta (duloxetine), like other medications for nerve pain, anxiety, or depression, may cause an increase in symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts in some individuals. If you notice your condition worsening or have any changes in mood such as feeling sad, anxious, agitated, hostile, restless or hyperactive mentally or physically; if you start to think about suicide or making a suicide attempt; if your sleep is disturbed because of thoughts racing through your mind; if you're acting on dangerous impulses; if there's extreme increase in activity and talking—any of these could be signs that this medication isn't working right for you. Seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Neurontin nor Cymbalta should be taken by people already taking MAO inhibitors (MAOIs). Always inform your physician about all the drugs and supplements that you are currently using before starting with either gabapentin or duloxetine. This includes over-the-counter medicines and herbal products too. This is important because MAOIs must clear from the system—a period which can require several weeks—to prevent potentially harmful drug interactions with both Neurontin and Cymbalta.

How much do Neurontin and Cymbalta cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 capsules of Neurontin (300 mg) averages around $400, which works out to about $13–26/day, depending on your dose.
  • The price for 30 capsules of Cymbalta (60 mg) is about $250, working out to approximately $8.33/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Neurontin (i.e., 900 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Cymbalta is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For the generic versions of Neurontin (gabapentin) and Cymbalta (duloxetine), costs are significantly lower:

  • Gabapentin can be bought in packs as small as 15 capsules all the way up to packs with several hundred tablets. Costs typically run from about $0.05 - $0.25 per day at common doses ranging from 100mg -300mg daily but may go up as high as ~$2 /day if taking large doses such as those near the maximum recommended dose (~3600mg).
  • Duloxetine comes in comparable pack sizes, and prices generally range from roughly ~$1 – ~$3 per day when taking typical dosages between 20 -120mgs daily.

Keep in mind that choosing a medication involves more than just considering costs; factors like effectiveness, side effects profile among others must also be taken into account before deciding what's best for your individual circumstances.

Popularity of Neurontin and Cymbalta

Gabapentin, also known by the brand name Neurontin, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 48 million people in the US in 2020. Gabapentin is primarily used for neuropathic pain and as an adjunctive therapy for partial seizures with or without secondary generalization in adults. It accounted for a considerable portion of prescriptions related to nerve pain and seizure control.

On the other hand, Duloxetine, including brand versions such as Cymbalta, was prescribed to approximately 16.5 million people in the USA in 2020. Duloxetine is mainly used for depressive disorders and generalized anxiety disorder but can also be used for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia, chronic musculoskeletal pain amongst others. In terms of overall antidepressant prescriptions within SSNRI (Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), duloxetine accounts significantly due to its broad range of applications. The prevalence of both medications has seen steady growth over recent years owing to their efficacy across multiple therapeutic areas.


Both Neurontin (gabapentin) and Cymbalta (duloxetine) have a long history of use in managing neuropathic pain, as well as other conditions such as fibromyalgia for Cymbalta and seizures for Neurontin. Numerous clinical studies and meta-analyses support their effectiveness over placebo treatments. Occasionally, these medications may be used together under careful physician supervision given they work via different mechanisms: Neurontin primarily affects the voltage-dependent calcium channels while Cymbalta inhibits serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake.

Neurontin is often considered first-line therapy in cases of postherpetic neuralgia or partial onset seizures, whereas Cymbalta might be preferred for diabetic peripheral neuropathy or fibromyalgia. Both drugs are available in generic form which can provide substantial cost savings, particularly for patients paying out-of-pocket.

Neurontin and Cymbalta come with an adjustment period – meaning that full effects may not materialize immediately upon starting the medication. While both drugs are generally well-tolerated, side-effects do occur; common ones include dizziness, somnolence with Neurontin and nausea with Cymbalta. It's important to point out that abrupt discontinuation should be avoided due to withdrawal syndrome associated especially with duloxetine (Cymbalta). For both medications, any new or worsening symptoms should prompt immediate consultation with a healthcare provider.