Antidepressant eases menopausal hot flashes

For menopausal women suffering from hot flashes, nothing has proven more effective than hormone replacement. However, many women are reluctant to utilize this therapy, so they often look to both natural medicine options (herbs, vitamins, and supplements) as well as other prescription medication options. Now there’s a new option for menopausal women to consider.

Bloomberg News reports that the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram) “eased hot flashes” in menopausal women, thus proving itself a “potential alternative to hormone treatments,” according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health as “part of a $22-million program to research potential treatments for menopause.”

According to the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog, the researchers randomized 205 “women who were experiencing hot flashes to take a daily dose” of escitalopram or a placebo. They found that for the women taking the antidepressant, “hot flashes decreased from 9.8 per day to 5.26.”

Moreover, women taking escitalopram said their hot flashes were not as severe. Women taking the placebo “experienced a decline in hot flashes, as well, but not as great: from 9.8 to 6.43 per day.”

The Washington Post “The Checkup” blog reported, “Although the benefit was modest, it appeared to be significant enough that women might consider trying it, the researchers said.”

According to the Time “Healthland” blog, “Many women currently have no effective long-term treatment for hot flashes.”

Physicians had long prescribed “hormone therapy as the go-to treatment for menopausal symptoms, but largely stopped doing so in 2002, when the results of the large, federally funded Women’s Health Initiative showed that the risks of hormone treatment — including heart disease and breast cancer risk — outstripped its benefits.”

CNN /Health.com points out, “Currently, hormone therapy is the only prescription treatment for hot flashes approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the effectiveness of herbal remedies such as black cohosh and evening primrose oil is disputed.”

Still, noted HealthDay although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are approved by the FDA “for the treatment of depression,” some physicians “prescribe them for ‘off-label'” uses.

WebMD notes that the mechanism by which escitalopram relieves hot flashes remains unknown. The study authors theorized that “the antidepressant works by providing more of the hormone serotonin to the brain.”

So, this gives us physicians another tool to offer our menopausal patients suffering from hot flashes.

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