Context: Standard therapy for hot flashes has been hormone replacement with estradiol or progestational agents, but recent data suggest that antidepressants inhibiting serotonin reuptake may also be effective.
Objective: To evaluate a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (paroxetine controlled release [CR]) in treating the vasomotor symptoms displayed by a general cross-section of menopausal women.
Design and setting: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group study conducted across 17 US sites, including urban, suburban, and rural clinics.
Patients: A total of 165 menopausal women aged 18 years or older experiencing at least 2 to 3 daily hot flashes and must have discontinued any hormone replacement therapy for at least 6 weeks. Women were excluded if they had any signs of active cancer or were undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Intervention: After a 1-week placebo run-in phase, study participants were randomized to receive placebo or receive 12.5 mg/d or 25.0 mg/d of paroxetine CR (in a 1:1:1 ratio) for 6 weeks.
Main outcome measures: Mean change from baseline to week 6 in the daily hot flash composite score (frequency x severity).
Results: Fifty-six participants were randomly assigned to receive placebo and 51 to receive 12.5 mg/d and 58 to receive 25.0 mg/d of paroxetine CR. The mean reductions in the hot flash frequency composite score from baseline to week 6 were statistically significantly greater for those receiving paroxetine CR than for those receiving placebo. By week 6, the mean daily hot flash frequency went from 7.1 to 3.8 (mean reduction, 3.3) for those in the 12.5-mg/d and from 6.4 to 3.2 (mean reduction, 3.2) for those in the 25-mg/d paroxetine CR groups and from 6.6 to 4.8 (mean reduction, 1.8) for those in the placebo group. Mean placebo-adjusted reduction in hot flash composite scores were -4.7 (95% confidence interval, - 8.1 to -1.3; P =.007) comparing 12.5-mg/d paroxetine CR with placebo; and -3.6 (95% confidence interval, -6.8 to -0.4; P =.03) comparing 25.0-mg/d paroxetine CR with placebo. This corresponded to median reductions of 62.2% for those in the 12.5-mg/d and 64.6% for those in the 25.0-mg/d paroxetine CR groups compared with 37.8% for those in the placebo group.
Conclusion: Paroxetine CR may be an effective and acceptable alternative to hormone replacement and other therapies in treating menopausal hot flash symptoms.