Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for premenstrual syndrome

K M Wyatt, P W Dimmock, P M O'Brien
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, (4): CD001396

BACKGROUND: Severe premenstrual syndrome affects between 3-5% of women of reproductive age. Such severe PMS is classified under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, PMDD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are increasingly being used as a front-line therapy for premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A systematic review was undertaken on the efficacy of SSRIs in the management of severe PMS/PMDD, to assess the evidence for this treatment option.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this review was to evaluate the effectiveness of SSRIs in reducing premenstrual syndrome symptoms in women diagnosed with severe premenstrual syndrome.

SEARCH STRATEGY: Electronic searches for relevant randomised controlled trials of the Cochrane Menstrual Disorders and Subfertility Group specialised register of controlled trials, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsychLit were undertaken. References were searched interactively to identify missed trials. Where insufficient data were presented original authors were contacted for further details.

SELECTION CRITERIA: All trials were considered in which women with a prospective diagnosis of PMS/ PMDD were randomised to receive SSRIs or placebo in a double blind trial for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: 31 randomised controlled trials were identified which reported the use of SSRIs in the management of PMS. 16 trials were excluded, 15 trials were included in the systematic review, and ten trials were included in the main analyses. The reviewers extracted the data independently and standardised mean differences for continuous outcomes were estimated from the data.

MAIN RESULTS: The primary analysis of reduction in overall symptomatology included data on 844 women with premenstrual syndrome. SSRIs were found to be highly effective in treating premenstrual symptoms. Secondary analysis showed that they were as effective in treating physical as well as behavioural symptoms. There was no significant difference between trials funded by pharmaceutical companies and those independently funded. Withdrawals due to side effects were 2.5 times more likely to occur in the treatment group, particularly at higher doses.

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: There is now very good evidence to support the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in the management of severe premenstrual syndrome.

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