SSRI could relieve aromatase inhibitor side effects

A study finds that duloxetine can help women better tolerate their breast cancer treatment.

Three MRI scans showing breast cancer

Adherence to aromatase inhibitor therapy by women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer is often poor because of the occurrence of musculoskeletal side effects.

A randomised, placebo-controlled trial explored whether the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) duloxetine, which is sometimes used to treat chronic pain disorders, reduced pain in 255 postmenopausal women with early breast cancer and new or worsened joint pain since beginning aromatase inhibitor therapy.

From baseline to 12 weeks, the mean pain score out of 10 dropped from 5.4 to 2.9 in the duloxetine group. This improvement was significantly greater than in the placebo group, where pain scores also decreased to a mean of 3.5.

Presenting their findings at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held from 6–10 December 2016, the researchers say the findings show that duloxetine could help women tolerate their breast cancer treatment and potentially improve their adherence[1]


[1] Henry NL, Unger JM, Schott AF et al. Randomized, placebo-controlled trial of duloxetine for aromatase inhibitor (AI)-associated musculoskeletal symptoms (AIMSS) in early stage breast cancer (SWOG S1202). Presented at: San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; 6–10 December 2016; San Antonio, Texas. Available at: (accessed January 2017)

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, February 2017, Vol 9, No 2;9(2):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20202204

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