Objective: To create an evidence-based position statement regarding the treatment of vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause.
Design: The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) enlisted clinicians and researchers acknowledged to be experts in the field of menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms to review the evidence obtained from the medical literature and develop a document for final approval by the NAMS Board of Trustees.
Results: For mild hot flashes, lifestyle-related strategies such as keeping the core body temperature cool, participating in regular exercise, and using paced respiration have shown some efficacy without adverse effects. Among nonprescription remedies, clinical trial results are insufficient to either support or refute efficacy for soy foods and isoflavone supplements (from either soy or red clover), black cohosh, or vitamin E; however, no serious side effects have been associated with short-term use of these therapies. Single clinical trials have found no benefit for dong quai, evening primrose oil, ginseng, a Chinese herbal mixture, acupuncture, or magnet therapy. Few data support the efficacy of topical progesterone cream; safety concerns should be the same as for other progestogen preparations. No clinical trials have been conducted on the use of licorice for hot flashes. Among nonhormonal prescription options, the antidepressants venlafaxine, paroxetine, and fluoxetine and the anticonvulsant gabapentin have demonstrated some efficacy for treating hot flashes and were well tolerated. Two antihypertensive agents, clonidine and methyldopa, have shown modest efficacy but with a relatively high rate of adverse effects. For moderate to severe hot flashes, systemic estrogen therapy, either alone (ET) or combined with progestogen (EPT) or in the form of estrogen-progestin oral contraceptives, has been shown to significantly reduce hot flash frequency and severity. Clinical trials have associated ET/EPT with adverse effects, including breast cancer, stroke, and thromboembolism. Several progestogens (both oral and intramuscular formulations) have shown efficacy in treating hot flashes, including women with a history of breast cancer, although no definitive data are available on long-term safety in these women.
Conclusions: In women who need relief for mild vasomotor symptoms, NAMS recommends first considering lifestyle changes, either alone or combined with a nonprescription remedy, such as dietary isoflavones, black cohosh, or vitamin E. Prescription systemic estrogen-containing products remain the therapeutic standard for moderate to severe menopause-related hot flashes. Recommended options for women with concerns or contraindications relating to estrogen-containing treatments include prescription progestogens, venlafaxine, paroxetine, fluoxetine, or gabapentin. Clinicians are advised to enlist women's participation in decision making when weighing the benefits, harms, and scientific uncertainties of therapeutic options. Regardless of the management strategy adopted, treatment should be periodically reassessed as menopause-related vasomotor symptoms will abate over time without any intervention in most women.