Women who suffer frequent hot flushes as a result of the menopause could have their flushes dramatically reduced thanks to a new drug compound.

In a clinical trial carried out at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust / Imperial College London, researchers found that women who suffered seven or more hot flushes a day could reduce the number by as much as 73 per cent, as well as reducing their severity and impact. 

In the video above, Elaine Baker, talks about the reasons why she took part in the study and the difference the experimental drug had on her hot flushes.  The video also includes an interview with Professor Waljit Dhillo, NIHR Professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Imperial College London, and Dr Julia Prague, ‎Academic Clinical Fellow in Diabetes and Endocrinology at ‎Imperial College London. They explain more about how the drug compound works, how they recruited patients, and the results of the trial.

The menopause is when a woman stops having regular periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally due to oestrogen levels falling.  It occurs from around 45-55 years of age.  Typical symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes and/or night sweats.  For some women these symptoms can be severe impacting on their working, social, and home lives, and can last for many years.

Menopause symptoms are often treated with daily Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) (oestrogen alone, or oestrogen in combination with progesterone). However, some women choose not to take this due to concerns regarding an increased risk of breast cancer and blood clots particularly when taken for longer than five years. Other women are advised never to take this treatment due to prior medical illnesses.

In the trial, 28 menopausal women aged between 40 and 62 years of age, who experienced seven or more hot flushes a day and had not had a period for at least 12 months, were recruited at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust hospitals.

They were given a new drug compound called MLE4901, originally developed by AstraZeneca and licensed to Millendo Therapeutics, to try to relieve their symptoms.

Participants were randomly chosen to either first receive a 80 mg daily dose of the drug or a placebo over the course of a four week period, before switching to receive the other tablet for an additional four weeks. This ensured the women acted as their own controls during the study, and that all participants received active drug rather than just placebo..

The researchers found that the compound MLE4901 significantly reduced the average total number of flushes during the four week treatment period, as well as reducing their severity, bother, and interference, compared to placebo. It also helped to reduce the impact of flushes on the women’s lives improving sleep.

The study, published in the Lancet, was carried out at the NIHR/Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Unit at Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust between February and October 2016.  The research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

This research is an example of the work carried out by Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, a joint initiative between Imperial College London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. It aims to transform healthcare by turning scientific discoveries into medical advances to benefit local, national, and global populations in as fast a timeframe as possible.