Introduction Neuropathy is one of the most frequent complications of diabetes. Of all the symptoms associated with diabetic neuropathy, pain has the largest impact on sleep and quality of life. In the past few years further medications have been added to the available therapies for neuropathic pain. One of these medications, duloxetine hydrochloride (duloxetine), is a balanced and potent selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Methods Medline was searched from January 2005 to September 2009 using the key words duloxetine and peripheral neuropathy for clinical trials limited to human research published in English and duloxetine and pharmacology in the nervous system. Results Duloxetine has been shown to effectively reduce diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain compared to placebo at doses of 60 mg/day and 120 mg/day with minimal to moderate side effects. This effect is seen with minimal effects on glycemic control and without any clinically relevant effects on lipid control, or cardiovascular parameters. In addition, its efficacy and tolerability is comparable to other medications commonly used in the management of neuropathic pain. Furthermore, duloxetine performs favorably both in terms of quality of life and in cost utility analyses. Discussion and conclusion This article reviewed the issues related to management of diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, the pharmacology and rationale for use of duloxetine, efficacy studies, and the safety and tolerability of treatment with duloxetine. Duloxetine is an acceptable initial or alternative treatment for patients with diabetic neuropathic pain.