Many peri- and post-menopausal women describe problems with memory and attention.  Data regarding the use of estrogen replacement therapy to improve cognitive functioning has been mixed.  Furthermore, recent concerns regarding the long-term risks of ERT have limited its use.  A recent report from C. Nell Epperson and colleagues from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine indicates that atomoxetine (Strattera), a treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may improve attention and reduce memory difficulties in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Sixteen peri- and post-menopausal women with memory complaints but no history of ADHD or other psychiatric disorders were enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of atomoxetine (80 mg/day).   The Brown Attention Deficit Disorder Scale (BADDS) was used to systematically assess perceived cognitive difficulties in executive function.   The mean baseline score was 42.3 in the 12 participants who completed the study.  BADDS scores fell to 25.5 in women treated with atomoxetine, a significant difference (p = .009).  There was no observable effect on levels of depression or anxiety in women treated with atomoxetine.

Although this study is preliminary in nature, it indicates that atomoxetine, and perhaps other medications used to treat ADHD, may be helpful for mid-life women who experience cognitive difficulties associated with the menopausal transition.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Epperson CN, Pittman B, Czarkowski KA, Bradley J, Quinlan DM, Brown TE.  Impact of atomoxetine on subjective attention and memory difficulties in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Menopause. 2011 Feb 2. [Epub ahead of print].