Prozac Shows Promise for Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors
Similar to Prozac, investigation of the newer antidepressant Effexor
(venlafaxine) has shown a reduction in hot flashes by half among women who took
At the symposium, Loprinzi offered what amounted to a preview of a trial
being conducted by the National Comprehensive Cancer Treatment Group using
Effexor, where preliminary findings aren't expected until spring. Still,
Loprinzi says early findings show higher doses of Effexor were significantly
more effective than placebo at limiting the amounts of hot flashes, often by
Loprinzi also pointed out that a report at the 1998 San Antonio meeting also
showed favorable results with the antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine), which is
similar to Prozac, for relief of hot flashes in breast cancer patients.
Favorable results have been reported for other new generation antidepressants,
including Zoloft (sertraline) and Wellbutrin (bupropion).
During a question-and-answer session at the San Antonio symposium, an
unidentified physician in the audience said Paxil is associated with some risk
of decreased libido, a side effect common to most drugs in its class of
antidepressants. Representatives of breast cancer patient advocacy groups also
expressed concern about the use of "powerful, potentially psychotropic
(mind-altering) agents to treat hot flashes" when other options are
available to breast cancer survivors, including natural therapies such as
vitamin E and physical activity.
In response to the concerns, Loprinzi said, "These patients wanted to
participate in this study because they had tried other therapies that hadn't
worked. The hot flashes had become extremely bothersome to them, and they were
willing to try something different. The patients were fully informed about the
use of Prozac."
Among natural approaches to relieve hot flashes, soy currently generates the
most enthusiasm, Loprinzi says.
- The antidepressant Prozac may be an effective treatment for breast cancer
patients who are experiencing hot flashes.
- Currently larger trials are underway to better define its effectiveness, as
well as trials to research the effectiveness of other antidepressants in
reducing hot flashes.
- Some experts question the use of these medications to treat hot flashes,
when other potential treatments are available, including vitamin E and physical