By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — An unlikely treatment for women who have trouble with memory and focus, related to hormones.
Leigh Costigan says her recent wedding was flawless a result of careful planning. She credits remembering all the details to a drug she and her new husband now joke about. “He teases me that if he forgets something he doesn’t take memory pills, but I do,” Leigh says.
The drug she’s taking Vyvanse is primarily used to treat A.D.H.D. attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But new research from Penn Medicine found it can also help improve cognitive issues related to menopause. Leigh says, “I was forgetting things that I would have never forgot before and my attention to detail was slipping. It became very frustrating.”
She’s not alone, millions of women experience difficulties with memory, focus, and organization related to menopause. Those symptoms can show up in the mid-40’s along with other symptoms like hot flashes and insomnia.
Computer memory tests were used to measure the effectiveness of Vyvanse as compared to a placebo. Leigh, who’s 59 now, was among 32 menopausal women in the study.
Dr. Neill Epperson director of the Penn Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness says, “For some women we saw a large improvement and for some others it was a more modest improvement … Many of the women that came into our study were women that were executives in their professional lives or nurses, doctors, people that really depend on their noggin, depend on their ability to focus, multitask and particularly attention to detail.”
Dr. Epperson says Vyvanse promotes the release of the brain chemical dopamine that could offset the decline of estrogen caused my menopause to help improve cognitive functioning.
Leigh says, “I noticed almost immediately that I was sharper and that my attention to details was back to where it was and I was able to focus on my work and anything in my personal life.. I’ve had great results.” She has continued to take Vyvanse, even though that study is over. Researchers say the results are preliminary, but encouraging.
The drug didn’t not cause any significant side effects and had no impact on the other symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes.
Penn Medicine is now starting another study on women who go through menopause early because of surgery.