Factbox: Hot flash remedies hard to come by

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The antidepressant Lexapro significantly cut the number and severity of hot flashes, offering a potential new treatment for this common menopause condition, researchers reported on Tuesday.

Hormone replacement therapy or HRT is the only Food and Drug Administration-approved for treatment of hot flashes, which affect more than two-thirds of North American women as they go through menopause.

But sales of the drugs have fallen sharply since a large study in 2002 found higher rates of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and strokes in women who took the estrogen plus progesterone pills.

Here is a sampling of alternatives studied so far to relieve symptoms of menopause:

* Other antidepressants besides Lexapro have been shown to be effective, including GlaxoSmithKline’s paroxetine or Paxil, fluoxetine, sold by Pfizer as Prozac, and Pfizer’s venlafaxine or Effexor.

* Pfizer’s epilepsy and migraine drug gabapentin, or Neurontin, also may be effective.

* Many women had been taking the herbs black cohosh and red clover to ease hot flashes but a 2009 study by teams at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found they were no better than placebo at easing hot flashes or memory lapses in women with menopause.

* A German study found one brand of black cohosh, marketed as Remifemin, could improve mild hot flashes. In rare cases, black cohosh may cause liver damage.

* A team from McGill University in Montreal reported in June that women who used low-dose transdermal patches to get their HRT had almost the same risk of stroke as women who used no HRT, with relief from hot flashes.

* Bionovo Inc is studying Menerba, an experimental drug for hot flashes.

* Women also can use non-drug methods to reduce and relieve hot flashes -- by avoiding triggers such as hair dryers, hot drinks, spicy foods and even strong emotions.

* Isoflavones, which are weak estrogens taken from plants such as soy, have been shown to reduce mild hot flashes by about 15 percent to 30 percent in some studies but others show no effect.

* Other remedies not shown to have any effects include progesterone cream and supplements containing the botanicals evening primrose oil, dong quai, ginseng, kava, licorice, or sage, according to the North American Menopause Society.

* Women also can take hormones other than estrogen, including medroxyprogesterone acetate, sold as Provera or Depo-Provera; megestrol acetate (Megace), and oral progesterone (Prometrium).

(Source: North American Menopause Society)

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen and Maggie Fox; Editing by Bill Trott