The FDA Advises Against Antidepressants and Anti-anxiety Meds for Hot Flashes
I’ve never been too keen on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication to treat perimenopause symptoms. In fact, it angers me that physicians dole them out to women like Pez candy for everything. Mainly because they don’t really help. Also because they are just a Band-Aid approach which never addresses the real issue of hormone imbalance.
Another thing that bothers me about them is that I know plenty of women bloggers and health writers (who shall remain unnamed) who support their use simply because the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology, along with NAMS (The North American Menopause Society) has thrown their “official” weight behind them as a therapy.
I’m sorry. Call me rebellious. But, getting behind a drug or a therapy simply because certain authoritative bodies recommend them is just not enough for me. Yeah, I know. I’m a women’s health blogger, too. So what makes my opinion any more authoritative than theirs, right? Well, nothing.
Except I happen to think that the actual women who are taking the stupid pills might know a little bit about whether they work or not. The women that I hear from repeatedly say they don’t work, they don’t help, and they don’t want to take them.
Enter Tracey, one of my readers who had this to say recently about her experience when she sought help for her perimenopause symptoms:
“My Ob-Gyn didn't really think I'm in perimenopause. I’m not sure why. Maybe she thinks 42 is too young? I told her how I was feeling twice and she sort of dismissed it. She did take blood and ran tests on my hormones, but of course everything came back normal, so that was the last I heard from her office.
My GP received the results and said there is nothing wrong with me - I pushed back talking about my symptoms, but his answer was to hand me samples of an antidepressant, which I did not take. I'm not depressed. I'm frustrated.”
Well, guess what, Tracey? An FDA reproductive health advisory board agrees with you – sort of.
The advisory committee recently voted 12 to 2 against approving Depomed’s extended-release gabapentin, a medication used to treat epilepsy seizures which is also used as an anti-anxiety medication, to treat hot flashes in perimenopausal women.
The panel also voted 10 to 4 against the use of a low-dose formulation of the antidepressant paroxetine developed by Noven Pharmaceuticals to treat perimenopausal hot flashes. “The risks” said the panel, “far outweigh the benefits.”
I do not wish to gloat (okay, maybe I am just a little), but once again, I feel vindicated.
The more I study, read, and write about perimenopause, the more convinced I become that Western medicine still really does not understand it. Neither does it have the first clue how to help women who are going through it.
All the authority you need to validate this comes out of the mouth of women just like Tracey every day. Her experience is text book. It illustrates perfectly what women go through when they seek help for their perimenopause symptoms.
Nevertheless, I was delighted when I read about the decision from the FDA advisory panel. I know it will not turn the tide of physicians prescribing antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication for women in perimenopause tomorrow.
But, thank God somebody is beginning to validate what women already know about them: they don’t work, darn it!
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women's health and a women's freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.