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Antiseizure Drug May Ease Hot Flashes

Neurontin and Estrogen May Equally Treat Hot Flashes, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 5, 2006 --The antiseizure drug Neurontin may be as good as estrogen at easing women's hot flashes.

So says a study published in July's issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. The researchers included Sireesha Reddy, MD, of New York's University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

One of Reddy's colleagues -- Thomas Guttuso Jr., MD, of the University of Buffalo -- holds a patent for Neurontin's use in the treatment of hot flashes, the journal notes.

Guttoso had previously reported that Neurontin seemed to help ease postmenopausal hot flashes. So Reddy, Guttoso, and colleagues pitted Neurontin against estrogen -- a hormone which drops during menopause and is often used to ease hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms -- in a head-to-head test.

For comparison, the study also included placebo pills lacking medicine, hormones, or other active ingredients.

Hot Flashes: Before and After Treatment

Reddy's team studied 60 postmenopausal women who had had at least 50 moderate to severe hot flashes every week for more than two months.

The researchers gave the women daily doses of Neurontin, estrogen, or placebo pills for three months. The women didn't know which type of pill they were taking.

The women kept diaries of their hot flashes during the study. They recorded the frequency and severity of their hot flashes. The researchers created a hot flash composite score for each woman, based on her ratings of her hot flashes' frequency and severity.

By the end of the study, the placebo group's average hot flash composite score was 54% lower than it had been at the study's start. The average hot flash composite score fell even further for the Neurontin group (down 71%) and estrogen group (down 72%).

"Despite the small scale of this study, [Neurontin] appears to be as effective as estrogen" in treating postmenopausal hot flashes, the researchers write.

Placebo Effect?

Reddy and colleagues note the "large placebo effect," meaning that the women in the placebo group saw big improvements in their hot flashes, even though the placebo lacked any active ingredients.

More work should be done to figure out how the placebo effect impacts hot flash treatments, the researchers note. For instance, they point out that people who enroll in hot-flash-treatment trials may make changes in their lives that curb their hot flashes. However, no lifestyle changes were noted in Reddy's study.

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