Image commercially licensed from: Unsplash
The Emergence of a New Menopausal Treatment
In recent times, the impact of menopause on the quality of life for women has garnered significant attention, leading to a surge in pharmaceutical research in this area. This week’s announcement of a groundbreaking new drug marks a pivotal moment in this journey.
Recognizing the vast potential market, researchers are paying closer attention to menopause and its effects. In the UK alone, approximately 13 million women are experiencing peri- or menopausal symptoms, accounting for about a third of the female population. These symptoms, including hot flushes, fatigue, mood swings, and muscle weakness, can severely hinder a woman’s wellbeing and productivity.
Dr. Sigi Joseph, a General Practitioner and menopause treatment expert, highlights the socio-economic implications of these symptoms, pointing out the significant portion of the workforce affected and the need for focused research to support these women.
Historically, women seeking relief from menopausal symptoms have faced limited options. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been the go-to solution, but it’s not suitable for all, particularly those with a history of certain cancers, blood clots, or untreated high blood pressure. Moreover, the side effects of oestrogen and progesterone can be challenging for some to tolerate.
The introduction of Veoza, or fezolinetant, has created a buzz in the medical community. Published data in the Lancet indicates that the drug, taken over 12 weeks, significantly reduces the frequency and severity of hot flushes in women aged 40 to 65. This includes a diverse range of women from various ethnic backgrounds, showing the drug’s universal efficacy.
Veoza operates by targeting neurons in the brain that control temperature regulation. During menopause, these neurons, affected by decreasing oestrogen levels, malfunction and release neurokinin-B, leading to hot flushes. Veoza counters this by inhibiting the release of these proteins.
However, Veoza is not without side effects, which include liver damage and other discomforts. The FDA, in approving the drug, has stipulated routine blood tests to monitor its impact, especially on the liver.
The rollout of Veoza in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is still under consideration. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has deemed it safe and effective, but its high cost remains a significant hurdle. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is currently evaluating whether the health benefits justify the expenditure.
Veoza represents a significant advancement in treating menopause symptoms, but it’s not a panacea. It does not address the full spectrum of menopausal impacts on the body. Moreover, its efficacy for women over 65 remains untested, as they were not included in the initial trials.
The limited treatment options for women dealing with menopause, birth control, and severe morning sickness highlight a broader issue in women’s healthcare. Often, hormonal issues are trivialized, leading to a lack of dedicated research and treatment options. However, the landscape is changing, with increased investment in understanding and addressing the underlying biological processes.
As a pioneer in this new wave of treatments, Veoza sets an important precedent. However, its high price tag underscores the need for continued efforts to make such treatments affordable and accessible. Without addressing the cost barrier, these advancements may make headlines but will have limited real-world impact for those struggling with menopausal symptoms.