New Drug May Lift Curse of Menstrual Cramps

Old Painkillers Can Cause Damage

On a recent doctor's visit, Tina was asked if she was an alcoholic, because of the damage the painkillers were doing to her liver. She was told to stop.

But Tina said that because the pain can be "intolerable," she continues to use the medicine.

"It's so bad that I am left to the point where I have to leave work early, crying and breaking out into a sweat," said Tina, who has been getting monthly pain since her first period at 10.

"I can't stand up and it lasts until the second or third day," she said. "I have tried other pills, but they don't work."

Painful menstruation is the leading cause of lost time from school and work among women in their teens and 20s, according to NIH data.

"A lot of this is age related," said Ellen W. Freeman, director of the premenstrual syndrome program at the University of Pennsylvania. "About 60 percent of all adolescents are troubled with menstrual cramps. But it tends to decrease with age. By the late 30s it's down to 20 percent."

For Meghan Berry, a 28-year-old Web editor from New York City, the stabbing pain was so severe she had to go on birth control pills, which she described as a "cure-all."

"They were really intense my junior and senior years in high school," she told "At their worst, I had problems standing up and doubled over. I would drive to school, but then my period would come and my mother would have to pick me up."

The new drug could be "an alternative route" for young girls who don't want to take birth control, Berry said.

"I think it's incredibly difficult for a whole host of issues when a girl has to address that with her parents," she said. "Having a complete separate drug would be really nice for these young women."

It's not only young women who might be helped by a new drug.

Mary Beth Matterfis is 43 and said she has been buckled by menstrual cramps since she was 17 or 18.

"My mother never had any cramps and the story used to be, you're like your mother," said Matterfis, who works at an investment bank. "Great. She saved it all up for me."

"Sometimes I go to stand up and my legs give out," she told "It's inconsistent for me. There are times I don't even know I have [my period] and times when I literally go into shakes and feel my heart going and have to stop because I feel faint with palpitations and cold sweats."

One day, she said, she felt her period coming on and went to get some fresh air.

"On the way back it hit me and I stood behind a store vomiting, feeling like I was going to pass out," Matterfis said.

But as bad as the pain is, Matterfis said, she is nervous about taking any kind of drug, especially ones that are stronger than ibuprofen.

"You don't want to take strong drugs when you are 17, and when you are older and in college or working you can't take them because you have to function," she said.

As for the still unnamed VA111913, Matterfis said if trials are successful, she will ask her doctor about its safety and side effects.

"If they can prevent some of these things from happening to me every month -- how long will I get this in all, for 12 periods a year and 40 years or more? -- that would be a miracle," she said.

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