Can antidepressants step into the menopause-treatment gap? A new study shows that Lexapro helped reduce the number and severity of hot flashes, adding to evidence that depression therapies might be an option for women who prefer to avoid hormone treatments. The difference with this study? It's the first to gauge how an antidepressant works against hot flashes in women who aren't depressed.
The safety of hormone replacement therapy has been fiercely debated in recent years. But experts generally agree that hormone drugs should be used for the shortest time possible, and some women, afraid of the potential risks of stroke, ovarian cancer and breast cancer, don't want to use them at all.
Hence the desire for an alternative: "One of the reasons for the study was to try to find something other than hormonal therapy," Ellen Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine told Reuters. "We feel the data provide an option for treatment for hot flashes, in particular if women are risk for taking hormonal therapy because they have a history of cancer or for women who don't want to take hormone therapy."
However, according to the results, the percentage of women who saw symptoms relieved by at least 50 percent was 55 percent among Lexapro patients, compared with 36 percent on placebo. Still, the difference was statistically significant, and when women stopped taking Lexapro, their hot flashes returned, but the placebo patients saw little change after stopping therapy. No word yet on whether Forest Laboratories plans to seek a new indication based on this data.