The latest medical ammunition to help postmenopausal women cool their hot flashes and quell their night sweats aims right at the head. Some studies suggest that antidepressants may soon be the next trend in the treatment of women’s menopausal symptoms.
Research shows that certain antidepressants have the remarkable side benefit of reducing the annoying and sometimes debilitating heat surges associated with menopause. The trouble is, the antidepressants’ own side effects might be as bad, or worse, than the hot flashes and night sweats women are trying to avoid. And the price for the medications is not trivial either.
Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has a new antidepressant, Pristiq, currently under review by the FDA for treatment of menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats. “Pristig is going to fill a needed void,” claims researcher David Archer, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Eastern Virgina Medical School in Norfolk.
Studies on using antidepressant treatments to treat hot flashes or night sweats have been heating up for several years. It started when hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the traditional standard of care for postmenopausal symptoms in the form of estrogen and/or progesterone, dramatically dropped off due to widely publicized reports of increased risks of heart problems, strokes and breast cancer in older women on long-term HRT.
In seeking non-hormonal solutions to menopausal hot flashes, researchers expanded upon an initial finding that some antidepressants helped minimize hot flashes in breast cancer patients treated for depression. Multiple subsequent clinical studies have demonstrated, to varying degrees, the effective use of antidepressants in healthy menopausal women suffering from excessive hot flashes and night sweats.
Antidepressants, however, do not quite measure up to the power of hormone treatments in reducing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. In a clinical trial testing another of Wyeth’s antidepressant drugs, Effexor, the antidepressant decreased women’s hot flashes by 60%, while estrogen treatments reduced the frequency of hot flashes by 80%.