What is fezolinetant? The non-hormonal menopause treatment drug explained

 (iStock)
(iStock)

The menopause treatment fezolinetant has been predicted as a “gamechanger” by experts for thousands of women who suffer from hot flushes.

The drug, which is the first non-hormonal menopause treatment, was recently approved by America’s FDA. Experts are predicting it could be transformative for women for whom hormone replacement drugs (HRT) are not suitable.

The drug was licensed in the US on 12 May and could be approved for use in the UK by the end of the year.

According to a British Menopause Society survey, 79 per cent of women aged 45 to 65 experienced hot flushes as a result of their menopause transition, while 10 to 20 per cent describe the hot flushes as “near intolerable”.

Here’s everything you need to know about fezolinetant:

What is it used to treat?

It works to target the menopause symptom of hot flushes. The drug that has been approved by the FDA is made by pharmaceutical company Astella, which advises patients to take one 45-milligram of its VEZOAH (fezolinetant) pill orally, once a day.

A large clinical trial of fezolinetant published earlier this year revealed that, after 12 weeks of use, it reduced the frequency of hot flushes by about 60 per cent in women with moderate or severe symptoms, in comparison to a 45 per cent reduction in those who received a placebo.

Women involved in the trial also said the drug reduced the severity of hot flushes and improved the quality of their sleep.

79 per cent of women aged 45 to 65 experienced hot flushes as a result of their menopause transition (Getty Images)
79 per cent of women aged 45 to 65 experienced hot flushes as a result of their menopause transition (Getty Images)

How does it work?

It works by blocking a brain protein called neurokinin-3, which plays a unique role in regulating body temperature in menopausal women. Respondents of the trial have said that the effects of the drug was experienced after taking the first tablet.

By comparison, HRT, taken to alleviate menopausal symptoms, replaces the oestrogen that you lose during the menopause transition, either alone or in combination with a progestogen

What are the side effects?

According to the FDA, the most common side effects are abdominal pain, diarrhoea, insomnia, back pain, hot flush and elevated hepatic transaminases.

What have experts said about it?

“This is going to be a completely blockbuster drug,” said Prof Waljit Dhillo, an endocrinologist at Imperial College London who led a trial for the drug in 2017 toldThe 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.”