- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003


About a quarter of women who stop taking hormone replacement therapy because of its risks resume the pills owing to menopause misery, says the first research to explore how easy it is to quit.

Desperate for alternatives to alleviate hot flashes, more women are turning to certain antidepressants, such as Prozac and Effexor, that can offer some relief even if the users aren’t depressed.

“They’re very hot right now,” says Dr. Nanette Santoro of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Certainly in my clinical experience, they’re the best second alternative” to estrogen.

Few other options are backed by scientific evidence that they relieve hot flashes, considered menopause’s worst symptom. Indeed, very few of the women who returned to hormone therapy had even tried an alternative, said Dr. Deborah Grady of the University of California at San Francisco, who led the study.

“One question that’s important in my mind right now is how can we help these women?” Dr. Grady said.

It’s a dilemma not just for women who suffer serious hot flashes for a few months surrounding menopause, but especially for the 15 percent who keep having them for years.

“They seem overburdened with guilt and anxiety about continuing hormones, when to them the benefits of a good night’s sleep and not turning into Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer every 10 minutes really are substantial,” Dr. Santoro said.

Hormone therapy was long thought to protect postmenopausal women from such age-related conditions as heart disease and Alzheimer’s. But sales have plummeted since July last year, when a major study found that hormone therapy slightly raised users’ risks of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer.

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