The experimental drug desvenlafaxine may offer an alternative to hormone treatment for hot flashes, according to a study published this month in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Women who took 100 milligrams of the drug daily had 64 percent fewer hot flashes each day after 12 weeks, Dr. Leon Speroff of the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and colleagues found. Wyeth, the company that is developing desvenlafaxine, funded the study.
Hormones are currently the first-line treatment for hot flashes, Speroff and his team note, but many women choose not to take them. Antidepressant drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have shown some effectiveness in treating menopausal symptoms, they add, while venlafaxine (Effexor), a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), has also shown promise.
Both SSRIs and SNRIs are thought to treat hot flashes and similar symptoms by restoring normal heat regulation in the body.
In the current study, Speroff and colleagues report on a clinical trial of desvenlafaxine, an SNRI, in 620 women who were having 11 hot flashes daily, on average. Women were randomly assigned to receive a placebo or 50, 100, 150 or 200 mg of the drug each day.
Sixty-four percent of the women taking the 100 mg dose experienced a 75 percent reduction in hot flashes after 12 weeks, compared with 29 percent of those on placebo, the researchers found.
Side effects included dizziness, nausea and insomnia, but more women discontinued the drug for these reasons compared with those on placebo only during the first week of treatment. However, 48 percent of women taking desvenlafaxine experienced symptoms including dizziness, headache and nausea after they stopped taking the drug.
More studies are needed to determine whether starting patients on a lower dose of the drug, and tapering patients off the drug rather than halting it abruptly, will reduce side effects, the researchers conclude.