Joffe, H., Partridge, A., Giobbie-Hurder, A., Li, X., Habin, K., Goss, P., . . . Garber, J. (2010). Augmentation of venlafaxine and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors with zolpidem improves sleep and quality of life in breast cancer patients with hot flashes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Menopause, 17, 908–916.doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181dbee1b
To evaluate the efficacy of optimizing hot flash (HF) treatment, as determined by sleep and quality of life (QOL) measurements, by combining the hypnotic agent zolpidem with a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)/serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial.
All women were evaluated for current use of SSRIs/SNRIs for the treatment of HFs. If currently on an SSRI/SNRI for HFs, they were instructed to continue use. If they were nonusers, they were started on venlafaxine 75 mg per day. They were then randomized to receive zolpidem 10 mg each evening or placebo each evening for five weeks. Patients were evaluated at baseline and at the end of the study.
Patients were undergoing the long-term follow-up phase of care.
The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial.
Due to the high percentage of drop-outs in the placebo arm, the investigators changed the way they evaluated the results. First, they identified the number of people who completed the study and showed improvement in sleep scores. The proportion of women completing the study varied by treatment assignment; 88% (22/25) of those who received zolpidem completed the therapy, whereas 57% (16/28) of those receiving placebo did so. Responders were those who completed the study AND showed improvement in their sleep scores. Forty percent (10) of the women taking zolpidem responded, whereas 14% (4) of the placebo group responded. Sleep improved in more women in the zolpidem arm than the placebo arm. The investigators looked at the differences in outcome measures between the two groups that completed the therapy. Measurements of PSQI scores and WASO time were significantly worse in the placebo arm. PSQI scores improved by 15% in the zolpidem arm and worsened by 26% in the placebo arm. The same was true with WASO time, which improved by 9% in the zolpidem arm and worsened by 2% in the placebo arm. In addition, patients in the zolpidem arm showed improvement in their QOL scores, whereas those on placebo showed a decrease in QOL scores. No change occurred in depressive symptoms in either group.
Zolpidem appears to improve a patient’s perception of nighttime HFs, perhaps by allowing her to sleep through the HF. Sleep scores improved, as did QOL in patients who augmented SSRIs with zolpidem for HFs. No change occurred in objective measurements of the number of HFs. Treatments targeting sleep may be an important supplemental strategy to optimize well-being.
Sleep disturbances due to HFs are among the most commonly reported symptoms in patients with breast cancer. Augmenting SSRIs/SNRIs with zolpidem may improve perception of nighttime HFs and, in turn, improve sleep and QOL. Further study is required.