On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the FDA approved Osphena, a new drug for painful sex. It's a class of meds called selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMs, and is similar to other medications of this type, such as Tomoxifen and Raloxifene.
SERMs activate some tissues that are sensitive to estrogen -- in this case, the vagina -- while are much less active in tissues such as the breast. That's what makes them "selective" and hopefully safer than estrogen for a specific application.
In a study of 1,889 postmenopausal women, those who used Osphena (Ospeneal) had a statistically-significant improvement in the degree of painful sex over the 12 weeks of the study compared to women who received a placebo.
According to the FDA, common side effects of the new medication included hot flashes, vaginal discharge, muscle spasms and excessive sweating. The package insert warns that the drug may increase the risk of endometrial (uterine lining) cancer, blood clots and stroke. It also states that the medication should be used for the shortest amount of time possible to achieve patients' treatment goals.
Since vaginal dryness is one of the most common symptoms of menopause, and since the symptom continues to worsen over time, it is likely that this new medication will have benefits for women in and around menopause, but its impact will likely be helped and extended by pairing it with non-hormonal vaginal moisturizers such as Replens.
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