22.05.2024

Menopause drug that ‘switches off’ hot flushes could be available by the end of the year

A drug that ‘switches off’ hot flushes in just days could be available by the end of the year. The ‘game-changing’ drug, called fezolinetant, works directly on the brain and could be a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of women who cannot take hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Earlier this month the US approved fezolinetant, which is the first non-hormonal menopause drug.

Its makers describe it as a therapy ‘based on our understanding of the biology behind hot flashes’.

The drug works by blocking a brain protein called neurokinin 3, that plays a role in regulating body temperature in menopausal women.

A menopause drug that ‘switches off’ hot flushes in just days could be available by the end of the year

The ‘game-changing’ drug, called fezolinetant, could be a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of women who cannot take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (file image)

The 'game-changing' drug, called fezolinetant, could be a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of women who cannot take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) (file image)

A large trial published this year showed that 12 weeks of taking the pill once a day reduced the frequency of hot flushes by about 60 per cent in women with moderate or severe symptoms, compared with a 45 per cent drop in those on a placebo.

Women also reported a reduction in the severity of hot flushes and better quality of sleep.

‘This is going to be a completely blockbuster drug,’ Professor Waljit Dhillo, an endocrinologist at Imperial College London, said.

‘It’s like a switch. Within a day or two the flushes go away – it’s unbelievable how well these drugs work.

‘It’s going to be completely game-changing for a lot of women.’

Fezolinetant, made by Japanese firm Astellas Pharma, is now being assessed by the European Medicines Agency.

A decision is expected this year, with the UK following a few months later.

The drug does not affect oestrogen levels – which decline steeply during the menopause – and so will not tackle symptoms of fatigue and mood swings as HRT does.

But HRT is not suitable for everyone, including those with a history of breast or ovarian cancer.

‘If you can’t take HRT there isn’t much in the way of really effective options,’ said Professor Annice Mukherjee, a consultant endocrinologist at the University of Coventry. ‘Women need options.’

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