New device better medicates menstrual cramps

The drug-coated tampons used in the study may not be the highest-tech gadget of 2009 but will likely come as a great relief to women who suffer the monthly pain of menstruation.

For some women, menstrual cramps can get so bad that they lead to nausea, vomiting, and an inability to do much of anything for days. Having to endure this on a monthly basis is a pain in the, well, gut.

Good news, then, for the unlucky among us. New research to be presented at the 2009 American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) annual meeting in November reveals that a new device to treat this pain is safe and effective--not to mention most likely affordable, since the device is essentially a glorified tampon.

The study was admittedly small: 18 participants, 18 to 45 years old, nine of whom received an oral dose of 10 mg of Ketorolac (a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medication), and nine of whom received a tampon coated with the same amount of the same drug. Then, during the next menstrual cycle, the patients switched treatments, so that each woman had access to each type of drug delivery system.

The results? The drug administered vaginally accumulated more efficiently in the uterine tissue than the drug administered orally:

"The goal of our study was to find a better way to treat menstrual cramps," says Giovanni M. Pauletti, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati and the study's presenter as well as past chair of AAPS' National Biotechnology Conference Planning Committee. "Existing oral medications cause significant gastrointestinal side effects for women, creating additional discomfort while alleviating menstrual pain. Results from our Phase I clinical trials show that this new vaginal device safely delivers at least 10 times more drug to the uterus as a tablet of equivalent dose."

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