December 20, 2011
New Hormone Pill Has Potential To Help Women With Menopause
Researchers say that a hormone pill may help women through menopause and give their sex lives a boost.
They said they found the first robust evidence that low doses of a hormone called DHEA can help sexual function and menopausal symptoms.
"We must bear in mind that this is a pilot study with a small sample," Anna Fenton, co-editor of the journal Climacteric, said in statement. "We can't yet say that this study means that DHEA is a viable alternative to HRT, but we should be looking to do larger studies to confirm these initial results."
DHEA is a natural steroid hormone made in the adrenal glands and has shown to have a variety of functions in therapy.
A combination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone (HRT) is currently the approved treatment for women going through the menopause.
Sales of the drug have dropped since a study in 2002 found higher rates of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and strokes in women who took the pills.
Researchers said in January that the antidepressant Lexapro significantly cut the number and severity of hot flashes in menopausal women, as well as other antidepressants.
For the current study, a team of researchers led by Andrea Genazzani of the University of Pisa followed a group of 48 post-menopausal women with symptoms.
They had 12 women take DHEA, while 12 others took vitamin D and calcium, 12 took the standard HRT, and 12 took a synthetic steroid known as tibolone.
The women's menopausal symptoms, such as sexual interest and activity, were measured using a standard questionnaire.
The researchers asked the women questions regarding sexual satisfaction and the frequency in which they had sex.
After 12 months, the women on hormone replacements had improvements in menopausal symptoms, but those taking vitamins D and calcium did not show any significant improvement.
All the groups at the start of the trial had similar sexual activity, but after a year the team found that those who took calcium and vitamin D scored lower on the questionnaire scale.
The researchers said that the results for the HRT group were similar, and both the HRT DHEA groups showed a higher level of sexual intercourse in comparison to the control group.
Genazzani said that the initial results from the study show that DHEA has potential.
"But this is a small study, a proof of concept. What we need to do now is to look at a larger study, to confirm that these initial results are valid," she said in a statement.
The study was published in the Journal of the International Menopause Society, Climacteric.
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