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The pre-menstrual misery for millions of women and their families could be solved by a small daily dose of Prozac, scientists have suggested.
The antidepressant drug acts on the brain to block symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), tests on rats have shown.
Falling levels of the sex hormone progesterone affect emotion circuits in the brain, but that process could be manipulated by Prozac, also known as the drug fluoxetine.
Researchers say the treatment could be made widely available as a PMS treatment in as little as two years, because the drug is already safely tested and commonly prescribed.
Scientist Dr Thelma Lovick, from the University of Birmingham, who led the research, said: “The implications are quite wide reaching, because potentially we’ve got available to us a drug which we might be able to tailor, something we could use at a very low dose to ameliorate the development of pre-menstrual syndrome. The time is right to take this into the clinical arena.”
Each month towards the end of her menstrual cycle, a woman’s production levels of progesterone rapidly fall.
The new research showed how this could affect brain circuits involved in controlling emotions.
A progesterone breakdown chemical called allopregnanolone (Allo) normally dampens down these circuits. As progesterone levels drop, so do levels of Allo, giving rise to the classic symptoms of anxiety, moodiness and irritability.
The rat experiments show that Prozac helps to maintain Allo levels in the brain, causing them to decline more slowly.
Copyright Press Association 2010