A Better Treatment For Hot Flashes?

GENERIC woman, women health, caduceus, therapy
As a breast cancer survivor, it was too risky for Carla Froehler to take hormone replacement therapy during menopause, CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports.

"I tried soy, I tried vitamin E, I tried different teas," Froehler says.

But her overwhelming hot flashes, coming once every hour, were ruining her life.

"I swear, if you put your hand on the back of my neck it would seem like I was burning up," she says.

It got so bad that Froehler signed up for a trial of a drug called Neurontin, or Gabapentin, being tested by Dr. Thomas Gottuso.

Neurontin is not a hormone; it's been on the market since 1994 to treat seizures and pain. Gottuso, a neurologist, discovered its hot flash fighting potential by accident when he prescribed it to a patient for headaches.

"A week later she gave me a call and told me her hot flashes went away," says Gottoso.

Gottuso then followed 59 menopausal women for 12 weeks; those on Gabapentin reported a 54 percent decrease in the number of hot flashes.

"Within one day, 24 hours, I noticed a huge difference. And I just called him up and said this is fantastic," Froehler says.

Hormones are more effective but their risks now weigh heavily on women's minds. Gottuso thinks Gabapentin could be a safer option.

"Women have really been screaming for a non-hormonal hot flash alternative," Gottoso, "and now they have one."

Menopause expert Dr. Michelle Warren thinks the findings could lead to new therapies.

"If there is a specific area of the brain where Gabapentin works it might point the way to understanding how hot flashes originate," Warren says.

Gabapentin's success treating hot flashes may be just the beginning, representing a new way of thinking about menopausal symptoms – maybe hormonal havoc isn't the only cause; maybe the brain plays a bigger role than we think.