NIH Research Initiative to Test Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms

A new research initiative from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will establish a multisite research network to conduct clinical trials of promising treatments for the most common symptoms of menopause.

The initiative—Menopause Strategies: Finding Lasting Answers for Symptoms and Health (MsFLASH)—is led by the National Institute on Aging in collaboration with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the Office of Research on Women's Health, all parts of the NIH. The MsFLASH network will be coordinated by principal investigators Andrea Z. LaCroix, PhD, and Garnet Anderson, PhD, both of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The network centers will collectively receive about $4.4 million each year of the initiative, which is projected to run for five years.

In addition to the Data Coordinating Center, five clinical research centers will make up the MsFLASH network, which will test a variety of approaches for treating menopausal symptoms. The MsFLASH centers and principal investigators are:

  • Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA: Lee Cohen, MD, and Hadine Joffe, MD;
  • Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis: Janet S. Carpenter, RN, PhD;
  • Kaiser Permanente, Northern California, Oakland: Barbara Sternfeld, PhD, and Bette Caan, PhD;
  • University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia: Ellen Freeman, PhD; and
  • Group Health Center for Health Studies, Seattle: Katherine Newton, PhD; and University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle: Susan Reed, MD.

Possible treatments to be studied during the project period include: antidepressants such as paroxetine or escitalopram, paced respiration (relaxation breathing), yoga, low-dose estradiol patch and low-dose estradiol gel, and exercise programs, both moderate and vigorous.

Chelation Therapy Trial Halted

Enrollment into the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT), a five-year, $30-million National Institutes of Health-funded clinical study, has been stopped, according to Heartwire, a professional news service of WebMD.

"The investigators and institutions performing the trial, in conjunction with their institutional review boards, have temporarily and voluntarily suspended enrollment of new participants in the study," Susan Dambrauskas, a media officer at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a cosponsor of the study, wrote in an e-mail to the news service.

TACT is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the efficacy of ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetic acid chelation therapy in the treatment of coronary artery disease. The primary endpoint of the trial is a composite of all-cause mortality, MI, stroke, hospitalization for angina, and hospitalization for congestive heart failure.

Critics have called this trial dangerous, unethical, and a waste of public funds. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is also a study sponsor.