Eli Lilly and partner Boehringer Ingelheim say that treatment with the blockbuster Cymbalta, which is approved as an antidepressant and painkiller, reduces diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain for more than six months.

The claim is based on data presented at the 12th World Congress on Pain in Glasgow which comes from the first study to assess the efficacy of Cymbalta (duloxetine) in DPNP beyond three months. The trial enrolled 216 patients with DPNP who began treatment with 60 mg of duloxetine once-daily and over the initial eight-week period, 53% experienced clinically significant improvement in pain reduction.

This group of responders was maintained on Cymbalta for up to 26 weeks and results at study end showed that the reduction in pain was maintained in 74.8%.

An estimated 17.2-49.2 million patients with diabetes have been diagnosed with DPNP, the firms noted. Vladimir Skljarevski, lead author of the study and a medical fellow at Lilly Research Laboratories, said it is “a chronic, potentially disabling, condition requiring treatment over a long period of time,” and the study is the longest data analysis of duloxetine for the treatment of DPNP.” The most common adverse events were nausea, somnolence, hyperhydrosis (excessive sweating), dry mouth, anorexia, asthenia (weakness), fatigue and headache.

Duloxetine, a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, is already approved for the treatment of DPNP, major depressive and generalised anxiety disorder. It is also approved for the management of fibromyalgia in the USA and in the second quarter contributed $654.4 million to Lilly’s coffers, an increase of 26% on the like, year-earlier period.