Scientists find cure for period pain with new wonder pill
For millions of women it's a misery they cannot avoid. But now they might no longer have to soldier on stoically in the face of agonising period pains. Scientists have made a breakthrough by creating a pill which could put an end to the discomfort.
The key to the drug's potential success is that it is designed to tackle the cause of stomach cramps which leave some women bedridden, rather than just the symptoms.
Dr Jim Phillips, of Vantia Therapeutics, the Southampton-based company behind the discovery said: 'Dysmenorrhoea [painful menstruation] affects a large number of women and there is currently no targeted therapy to treat the condition. I think it would be fair to call it a breakthrough, there is certainly no other treatment like it. From our research there is nothing to suggest it won't work.'
The drug, known for now as VA111913, has already been proved safe and has few side effects, and if secondary trials are successful it could be available within four years. It will now be trialled on 128 women aged between 18 and 35 in Britain and the United States. Volunteers who suffer pain severe enough to interfere with normal daily life will receive doses of the drug for a maximum of six days during their menstrual cycle.
The drug works by bringing the hormone vasopressin, which controls the muscles that contract in the uterus wall, down to normal levels. The company's chief medical officer, Hilary McElwaine-John, said: 'We found that what was on the market did not meet the need of those women who can't even get to work or school because of the pain.'
Dr Phillips added: 'We believe this could offer an effective alternative to the over-the-counter painkillers.'
Many have tried techniques such as relaxing exercises or placing a hot water bottle on the stomach to try to combat it, and the most common treatments offered to sufferers tend to be over-the-counter pills such as ibuprofen or naproxen. There is such a clamour for ways to ease the discomfort that the therapeutic market for period pains is estimated to be worth more than £600million worldwide.
Dr Phillips estimates that if the drug is successful, the revenue it could bring in could run into the multi-millions. He said: 'We won't get any revenue from it for at least five years, but if it is successful we would be looking for commercialisation partnerships that would be worth tens of millions of dollars in the U.S.'
Period pain is caused by contractions in the womb during menstruation. Each one temporarily stops the blood flow, causing the tissue to be starved of oxygen. At the same time chemicals called prostaglandins are released that induce stronger contractions and can cause more pain.