Osteoporosis Drug May Take Edge off Anxiety
At the end of the study, most quality-of-life measures in all four treatment groups were unchanged, compared to the start of the study. The exceptions were:
- menstrual-like symptoms, which got worse in the estrogen group,
- hot flashes and night sweats, which improved in the estrogen group, and
- anxiety/fear, which improved in the group that received a 60 mg dose of raloxifene.
"As far as anxiety is concerned, there is a long history of estrogen having mental tonic effects," Strickler says. "The finding that [a SERM] has an anxiety-reducing benefit is an unexpected finding of the medication. The other findings related to the side effects of both estrogen and raloxifene were very much as we expected them to be."
However, the research is not without its critics. "No. 1, these are not very objective parameters. Anxiety and fear are so subjective that I have trouble evaluating the study," Loren Greene, MD, tells WebMD. "I think this is not enough data to prove anything in the short term." She also adds that the study did not include a large enough group of women. Greene is a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine.
Strickler also cautions not to read too much into the findings or apply them to everyone -- at least not until more studies are done to confirm them. "That would be a tremendous disservice to the population," he says. "The study was a bone prevention study primarily, but as we looked at all these secondary [findings], this one popped up as an interesting observation. Now we need to design a study that will more carefully look at raloxifene's benefits within the central nervous system.
Greene agrees. "I think it merits further study, but I think that there has to be more objective parameters in a further study and a focusing on specifics," she says.
"The important thing is that along with estrogens and the potential that they are suggested to have with the central nervous system, this new category -- the SERMs -- may also have benefit in the central nervous system," Strickler says. "That is going to be another important piece of information as these agents become a part of our every day therapy for our menopausal population."