For the trial, the Mayo Clinic investigators enrolled 254 postmenopausal women who were not receiving hormone therapy or cancer treatment and reported at least 14 hot flashes per week for a month or longer. The women were divided into four groups -- one which took a placebo, and three which took differing daily doses of citalopram: 10, 20, or 30 mg.
After six weeks of treatment, hot-flashes had declined by 23 percent in the placebo group and by 49 percent, 50 percent, and 55 percent in the women assigned to 10, 20, and 30-mg doses of citalopram, respectively.
Other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like citalopram have previously been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. This medication, though, may have advantages over others: it does not interfere with the breast-cancer drug tamoxifen, an issue for cancer patients whose hot flashes are caused by their treatment, and it has few side effects.
The research, which was funded in part by a U.S. Public Health Service grant, appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. It follows other work, including a 2006 Stanford study, showing that acupuncture may also be an effective way to combat hot flashes in some women.