Pain Medication Flexeril Was Mysteriously Discontinued — Here's Why, According to a Pharmacist (Exclusive)

We spoke to a pharmacist who believes Flexeril's mysterious disappearance had to do with the price.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

Feb. 19 2024, Published 11:34 a.m. ET

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For many people suffering from chronic pain, the therapeutic benefits of the muscle relaxant Flexeril (one of the major brand names for the drug Cyclobenzaprine) were immense. However, former recipients of the prescription may have noticed that Flexeril was discontinued, and wondered why.

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With the benefit of hindsight, we know that some chemical formulas are outright dangerous, some medications can be addictive, or, as is the case with Flexeril, the reasons are shrouded in mystery and seemingly scrubbed from the internet.

Learn below from one pharmacist we spoke with who explains why he believes Flexeril was discontinued, as well as additional reasons why the medication has been the target of addiction recovery facilities.

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What is Flexeril? This version of Cyclobenzaprine was discontinued.

Cyclobenzaprine belongs to the muscle relaxant class of drugs and is sold under different trade names, previously including Flexeril, and currently including Amrix and Fexmid, according to GoodRX. After first being synthesized in the 1960s, Cyclobenzaprine has been used in human medicine since 1977, according to the National Library of Medicine.

According to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration fact sheet, Flexeril was manufactured by Merck & Co. Inc, and the company discontinued the product in 2023.

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Why was Flexeril discontinued?

The reason for Flexeril's discontinuation in 2023 by manufacturer Merck has been largely speculation. However, pharmacist and popular influencer Dr. Phillip Cowley, who owns the Logan, Utah-based Cache Valley Pharmacy, believes that the decision was a financial one.

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"Merck just dropped it because there was no money keeping the brand name around," Cowley, aka @philsmypharmacist, tells Green Matters exclusively in an email.

"A bottle of generic Cyclobenzaprine is $15-20. The brand name was so expensive that it just didn’t make any business sense," he speculates.

In addition to cheaper generic options being on the market, patient misuse of Flexeril may have also contributed to its discontinuation.

Per the DrugBank Online database, Cyclobenzaprine is only meant to be a temporary solution for pain relief. As noted by the California-based Renaissance Recovery, although the drug isn't thought to be addictive in the same way that opioids are, the "potential for psychological dependence and misuse" is high.

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Additionally, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration's Diversion Control Division, Cyclobenzaprine is not a controlled substance. The drug has totaled nearly 30 million prescriptions annually in recent years, with anecdotal reports of intentional "illicit distribution" and misuse to "non-medically to induce euphoria and relaxation."

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Per CBS News, Flexeril was present in the toxicology report from Whitney Houston's untimely 2012 death. Upon sudden cessation of taking Flexeril, people may experience drug withdrawal, according to the Texas-based Greenhouse Treatment Center.

If you or someone you know needs help, use SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to find support for mental health and substance use disorders in your area or call 1-800-662-4357 for 24-hour assistance.

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