Cases in Menopause

Your postmenopausal patient reports a history of migraine

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Would a trial of hormone therapy increase her risk of stroke?



Brought to you by the menopause experts

Andrew M. Kaunitz, MD
Professor and Associate Chairman, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Florida College of Medicine–Jacksonville. Dr. Kaunitz is a NAMS Board member and certified menopause practitioner. He also serves on the OBG Management Board of Editors.

JoAnn V. Pinkerton, MD
Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Director, Division of Midlife Women’s Health, University of Virginia. Dr. Pinkerton is a North American Menopause Society (NAMS) past president and certified menopause practitioner. She also serves on the OBG Management Board of Editors.

James A. Simon, MD
Clinical Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, George Washington University, and Medical Director, Women’s Health & Research Consultants, Washington, DC. Dr. Simon is a NAMS past president, a certified menopause practitioner, and a certified clinical densitometrist. He also serves on the OBG Management Board of Editors.

Dr. Kaunitz reports that his institution receives grant or research support from Bayer, Teva, Medical Diagnostic Laboratories, and Noven, and that he is a consultant to Bayer, Actavis, and Teva.

Dr. Pinkerton reports that her institution receives consulting fees from Pfizer, DepoMed, Shionogi, and Noven and multicenter research fees from DepoMed, Endoceutics, and Bionova.

Dr. Simon reports being a consultant to or on the advisory boards of Abbott Laboratories, Agile Therapeutics, Amgen, Ascend Therapeutics, BioSante, Depomed, Lelo, MD Therapeutics, Meda Pharmaceuticals, Merck, Noven, Novo Nordisk, Novogyne, Pfizer, Shionogi, Shippan Point Advisors LLC, Slate Pharmaceuticals, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, Teva, Warner Chilcott, and Watson. He also reports receiving (currently or in the past year) grant/research support from BioSante, EndoCeutics, Novo Nordisk, Novogyne, Palatin Technologies, Teva, and Warner Chilcott. He reports serving on the speakers bureaus of Amgen, Merck, Novartis, Noven, Novo Nordisk, Novogyne, Teva, and Warner Chilcott. Dr. Simon is currently the Chief Medical Officer for Sprout Pharmaceuticals.

CASE: Menopausal symptoms and a history of migraine with aura

Your new patient is a 52-year-old woman (G2P2) who reports a long history of two types of migraine: menstrually related migraine without aura and nonmenstrually related migraine with aura (usually involving visual scotomata). Other than the history of migraine, her health is good. Now postmenopausal, she has been referred to you by her primary care physician (PCP) for management of severe vasomotor symptoms and sleep disturbance.

Because of this patient’s history of migraine, her PCP declined to prescribe oral contraceptives (OCs) in the past over concern of increasing her risk of stroke. For her vasomotor symptoms, her PCP prescribed a trial of venlafaxine (Effexor) 75 mg daily, but her orgasms, which always had been difficult to achieve, became impossible. In addition, the patient began to perspire heavily unrelated to her hot flashes. As a result, she describes her mood as “terrible,” her energy level as “miniscule,” and she reports losing interest in sex completely (“I am just too tired”). She and her referring physician wonder whether it would be safe to try hormone therapy (HT).

A physical examination, including funduscopic assessment, reveals no abnormalities. Her blood pressure is 126/70 mm Hg, and blood chemistry results, including C-reactive protein, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, a complete blood count, and lipid profile, are all normal.

Would you offer this patient the option of HT?

Migraine affects roughly twice as many women as men.1 During the reproductive years, rapid fluctuations in ovarian hormones—both increases at midcycle and, to a greater extent, decreases during the premenstrual phase—are believed to be migraine “triggers.” Women who experience menstrually related migraine before menopause typically have an increased risk of migraine during perimenopause, with a significant reduction of migraine symptoms following menopause.2

Side effects of SSRIs and SNRIs
Most providers are aware that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) cause sexual side effects in as many as 80% of users. There is a dose-related pattern to reports of sexual problems among SSRI users, with higher doses causing more problems. The most common sexual symptoms associated with SSRIs are delayed ejaculation and absent or delayed orgasm.3

What is not as widely known is that even serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) can cause sexual dysfunction. For example, in a prospective, multicenter study from Spain involving more than
1,000 outpatients, all of whom were taking an antidepressant, the overall rate of sexual dysfunction was 59%.4 Sexual dysfunction was most common among users of SSRIs and venlafaxine, an SNRI.5

Another common side effect of venlafaxine, sweating, is unrelated to hot flashes.5 So two of this patient’s concerns—orgasmic difficulties and profuse sweating unrelated to hot flashes—may have been caused or worsened by her antidepressant.

Another nonhormonal option
In June 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved paroxetine mesylate (Brisdelle), an SSRI, for the treatment of moderate to severe menopausal vasomotor symptoms. Because the drug is a strong CYP2D6 inhibitor, it should not be given to women taking another medication that is metabolized by CYP2D6—most notably, tamoxifen.

Preliminary data on this drug suggest that, at the recommended dose (7.5 mg/d), it has no effect on sexual function.6 For this reason, it is another option for our patient to consider.

Next Article:

New option for treating menopausal vasomotor symptoms receives FDA approval

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