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'Unbelievable' drug targeting hot flushes approved in UK

A drug that aims to prevent hot flushes has been approved for use in the UK – potentially benefitting hundreds of thousands of women.

Veoza, also known as fezolinetant, has been given the go-ahead after it was approved for use in America in May by the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration.

Hot flushes cause a sudden feeling of warmth in the upper body, the NHS says. It can vary from a few seconds of feeling overheated to an hour of sweating that can disrupt sleep or cause discomfort.

Up to 80% of women going through menopause are affected, according to the NHS.

Veoza works by blocking a protein in the brain called neurokinin-3, which plays a role in regulating body temperature in menopausal women.

The drug will not address the wider range of symptoms that some women can experience, including fatigue, muscle weakness and mood swings.

“Hot flushes and night sweats caused by menopause are common, and can have a significant impact on a woman’s daily life,” Julian Beach, the interim executive director of healthcare quality and access at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), told Sky News.

“We are therefore pleased to have authorised Veoza (fezolinetant) for hot flushes and night sweats caused by menopause via our reliance procedure.

“No medicine would be approved unless it met our expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness, and we continue to keep the safety of all medicines under close review.”

Read more from Sky News:
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The drug could prove to be an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which aims to relieve symptoms by replacing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which fall to low levels as you approach menopause.

Despite currently being the most effective treatment option for menopause, it can be unsuitable for many, including some women with a history of breast or ovarian cancer, blood clots or with untreated high blood pressure.

Some women can also experience side effects or prefer non-hormonal alternatives.

“This is going to be a completely blockbuster drug,” Professor Waljit Dhillo, an endocrinologist at Imperial College London who led a 2017 trial that led to the drug’s development, told The Guardian.

“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.”

Veoza has not yet been studied for safety and efficacy in women over the age of 65, the MHRA said.

It will initially be available for individuals experiencing hot flushes associated with the menopause privately from 5 January, according to officials at Astellas, which makes the drug, The Guardian reported.

The price for a course of treatment is yet to be approved by the Department of Health and Social Care, Astellas told the newspaper. In the US, a 30-day supply was priced at $550 (£430).

The company has reportedly begun the process of applying to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to enable women to access the treatment on the NHS.

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