By Emma Dooney
A new drug has been approved for the treatment of vaginal yeast infections, bringing hope to millions of people who suffer from the painful—and sometimes even debilitating—genital condition.
It's estimated that about 75% of women will experience a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their life, with up to 8% encountering them on a recurring basis. The pesky ailment, which is just one of many reasons you could have a sore vagina, is caused by an overgrowth of a yeast called candida. While harmless in small amounts, too much of it can wreak major havoc on our bodies and leave us feeling a little scratchier than normal down there.
Brexafemme (ibrexafungerp), hopes to tackle this common health issue by providing a stronger alternative to the current medications on the market.
As the first non-azole oral treatment for yeast infections, the FDA-approved drug could bring its patients lasting relief from recurring flare-ups. According to its manufacturer, Scynexis, Brexafemme is designed to be taken for just one day and will become available to purchase in the US in the second half of 2021.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of this potentially life-changing medication, it's important that we understand what exactly it's trying to cure down there. So without further ado, let's go over the need-to-know facts about vaginal yeast infections.
What are the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection?
Warning signs of a vaginal yeast infection vary, but typically include an itchy and irritated vagina and vulva. Other symptoms to watch out for are a red, swollen vagina, vaginal pain, and/or a vaginal rash. You should also be cautious of thick, white discharge or watery discharge, as well as a burning or stinging sensation when you urinate or have sexual intercourse.
What are the most common treatments for a vaginal yeast infection?
Treatment for a vaginal yeast infection isn't always straightforward.
The most commonly prescribed drug for the condition is Diflucan (fluconazole), an azole antifungal medication that is usually taken once a day. Unfortunately, this oral treatment only reports a 55% therapeutic cure rate, which means nearly half of sufferers will experience another outbreak in the future.
Alternatively, doctors may prescribe a topic treatment, like an antifungal ointment. These creams often contain lower doses of the same ingredients found in oral medication for vaginal yeast infections, so they're usually recommended for milder cases.
You can also opt for suppositories, which may be more convenient to use than slippery ointments. These vaginal tablets are inserted into the vagina via an applicator, where they dissolve and get to work by restoring the vagina's healthy balance of lactic acid bacteria.
How is Brexafemme different to Diflucan?
Brexafemme differs from Diflucan by killing a wider range of candida species, targeting strains that may be resistant to azole antifungal meds.
While the current drug has a high success rate in curing one-off infections, it doesn't seem to work as well for people who experience recurring cases. Medical scientists believe that people who suffer from repeated infections may carry an atypical strain of candida fungus that can't be erased by fluconazole—and that's where Brexafemme comes in.
The once-a-day drug could benefit those who suffer from ongoing outbreaks of vaginal yeast growth by inhibiting glucan synthase, the enzyme which helps form the fungal cell wall. This leads to a fungicidal mechanism of action, meaning the drug works by essentially killing fungal cells.
Where can I get Brexafemme?
Brexafemme won't be available to buy until the second half of 2021, and even then, it will only be sold on the US market. It also won't be cheap—the one-day 300mg dose will cost between $350 and $450, according to Scynexis.
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