Sweats and Hot Flashes
One study compared the efficacy and patient preference of venlafaxine, 75 mg, once daily to gabapentin, 300 mg, 3 times per day for the reduction of hot flashes. Sixty-six women with histories of breast cancer were randomly assigned in an open-label fashion to receive venlafaxine or gabapentin for 4 weeks; after a 2-week washout period, they received the opposite treatment for an additional 4 weeks. Both treatments reduced hot flash scores (severity multiplied by frequency) by about 66%. However, significantly more women preferred venlafaxine over gabapentin (68% vs. 32%, respectively).
A study using citalopram to evaluate hot flashes examined how much of a reduction in hot flashes was needed to have a positive impact on activities of daily living and general health-related quality of life. The authors reported that hot flashes had to be reduced at least 46% for women to report significant improvements in the degree of bother they experienced in daily activities.
Agents that have been evaluated in phase II trials but have not shown efficacy include bupropion, aprepitant, and desipramine.[Level of evidence: II] Interestingly, these agents do not primarily modulate serotonin. In addition, randomized clinical trials with sertraline have not provided convincing evidence of its efficacy in hot flash management.[39,40,41][Level of evidence: I]
If nighttime hot flashes or night sweats are a particular problem without causing much bother during daytime, strategies to simultaneously improve sleep and hot flashes are in order. Limited data exist related to effective treatments that can target both symptoms. One pilot trial evaluated mirtazapine (a tetracyclic antidepressant that mainly impacts serotonin) for hot flashes because it is often prescribed for sleep difficulties. Twenty-two women were titrated up to 30 mg per day of mirtazapine at bedtime over a 3-week period; then they could choose 15 mg or 30 mg at bedtime daily for the fourth week. Hot flashes were reduced about 53% in this nonrandomized trial, and women were statistically significantly satisfied with their hot flash control. However, only 16 of the 22 women stayed on the agent for the entire study period because of excessive grogginess. Therefore, although this agent could be further studied in a larger randomized trial, it would be particularly important to evaluate the risk/benefit ratio.