Compared with a placebo, the antidepressant medication Lexapro® (escitalopram) reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes in healthy menopausal women. These results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Menopause—when menstrual cycles end and ovarian hormone production drops dramatically—produces symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats in up to 80% of women. When these symptoms are severe, they can have a profound effect on a woman’s quality of life and ability to function.
For many years, hormone therapy with estrogen (with or without progestin) has provided an effective way for women to manage menopausal symptoms. Studies over the last several years, however, have raised some concerns about the health effects of hormone therapy. This has prompted interest in nonhormonal approaches to managing menopausal symptoms.
Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Previous studies of SSRIs for the management of hot flashes have produced mixed results.
To evaluate the efficacy of Lexapro for managing hot flashes, researchers conducted a study among 205 healthy menopausal women who were experiencing frequent, bothersome hot flashes. Women ranged in age from 40 to 62 and roughly half were African American.
Study participants were assigned to eight weeks of treatment with either Lexapro (10 mg/day) or a placebo. The dose of Lexapro was increased to 20 mg/day if the woman did not report an improvement in hot flashes after the first month.
- Hot flash frequency dropped by at least half in 55% of women in the Lexapro group and 36% of women in the placebo group.
- Women in the Lexapro group had a greater reduction in hot flash severity than women in the placebo group.
- The effect of Lexapro did not vary by race.
- Satisfaction with treatment was greater in the Lexapro group than in the placebo group.
These results suggest that among healthy postmenopausal women, Lexapro may reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The researchers recommend further studies to directly compare Lexapro with hormone therapy for the management of hot flashes.
Reference: Freeman EW, Guthrie KA, Caan B et al. Efficacy of escitalopram for hot flashes in health menopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2011;205:267-274.
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