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Original Contribution
January 19, 2011

Efficacy of Escitalopram for Hot Flashes in Healthy Menopausal Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Psychiatry (Dr Freeman) and Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Statistics (Dr Sammel), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia; Data Coordinating Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Drs Guthrie, Anderson, and LaCroix and Mr Larson), University of Washington School of Medicine (Dr Reed), and Group Health Research Institute (Dr Newton), Seattle; Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, California (Drs Caan and Sternfeld); Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Drs Cohen and Joffe); School of Nursing, Indiana University, Indianapolis (Dr Carpenter); VA Medical Center/University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (Dr Ensrud); and National Institute on Aging, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (Dr Sherman).

JAMA. 2011;305(3):267-274. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.2016

Context Concerns regarding the risks associated with estrogen and progesterone to manage menopausal symptoms have resulted in its declining use and increased interest in nonhormonal treatments with demonstrated efficacy for hot flashes.

Objective To determine the efficacy and tolerability of 10 to 20 mg/d escitalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, in alleviating the frequency, severity, and bother of menopausal hot flashes.

Design, Setting, and Patients A multicenter, 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group trial that enrolled 205 women (95 African American; 102 white; 8 other) between July 2009 and June 2010.

Intervention Women received 10 to 20 mg/d of escitalopram or a matching placebo for 8 weeks.

Main Outcome Measures Primary outcomes were the frequency and severity of hot flashes assessed by prospective daily diaries at weeks 4 and 8. Secondary outcomes were hot flash bother, recorded on daily diaries, and clinical improvement (defined as hot flash frequency ≥50% decrease from baseline).

Results Mean (SD) daily hot flash frequency was 9.78 (5.60) at baseline. In a modified intent-to-treat analysis that included all randomized participants who provided hot flash diary data, the mean difference in hot flash frequency reduction was 1.41 (95% CI, 0.13-2.69) fewer hot flashes per day at week 8 among women taking escitalopram (P < .001), with mean reductions of 4.60 (95% CI, 3.74-5.47) and 3.20 (95% CI, 2.24-4.15) hot flashes per day in the escitalopram and placebo groups, respectively. Fifty-five percent of women in the escitalopram group vs 36% in the placebo group reported a decrease of at least 50% in hot flash frequency (P = .009) at the 8-week follow-up. Reductions in hot flash severity scores were significantly greater in the escitalopram group (−0.52; 95% CI, −0.64 to −0.40 vs −0.30; 95% CI, −0.42 to −0.17 for placebo; P < .001). Race did not significantly modify the treatment effect (P = .62). Overall discontinuation due to adverse events was 4% (7 in the active group, 2 in the placebo group). Three weeks after treatment ended, women in the escitalopram group reported a mean 1.59 (95% CI, 0.55-2.63; P = .02) more hot flashes per day than women in the placebo group.

Conclusion Among healthy women, the use of escitalopram (10-20 mg/d) compared with placebo resulted in fewer and less severe menopausal hot flashes at 8 weeks of follow-up.

Trial Registration clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00894543