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Hormone-Free Hot Flash Drug on Horizon

But Experimental Drug Pristiq Gets Mixed Reviews

Mixed Results continued...

Night sweats, awakenings, mood. In another study of 843 women, led by Archer, Pristiq increased the minutes slept without waking up from 29 on placebo to 42 on 100 milligrams of Pristiq and 40 minutes on 150 milligrams of Pristiq. Women on Pristiq reported better moods than those on placebo and had fewer awakenings during the night.

Sexual problems. Gass also asked the 689 women in her study to complete a questionnaire about any sexual problems. Of the 467 women who did, there were no differences in sexual problems among groups, whether on placebo or the various Pristiq doses. But among the entire group of 689, a higher number of those on Pristiq (4.2%) reported sexual problems such as decrease in desire compared with those on placebo (1.3%). This difference, however, was not significant, she says.

Caveats

"I think these are preliminary studies," says William Parker, MD, staff gynecologist at Santa Monica-UCLA and Orthopaedic Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif. "I'd like to see a head-to-head comparison study with SSRIs." Many doctors prescribe the SSRI antidepressants to help relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause.

Parker points out, too, that nausea is one of the side effects reported with Pristiq use. Researchers say the nausea subsides. According to Wyeth spokeswoman Danielle Halstrom, a new technique of increasing the dose over three days is expected to remedy the nausea problem.

Options

Parker, like many other gynecologists, still prescribes hormone replacement therapy for some women for short periods of time, if they determine the benefits outweigh the risks, while reassessing their needs often.

"Hormone therapy is probably still the best for hot flashes," Archer concedes. But Pristiq, when approved, will simply give women another option, he says.

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