New Drug May Lift Curse of Menstrual Cramps

About 15 percent of women have pain so bad they cannot go to school or work.

ByABC News
October 12, 2009, 3:58 PM

Oct. 13, 2009— -- Candace Jones suffered monthly menstrual pains throughout adolescence, but she didn't fully understand how bad they were until she went into labor with her first child.

"The cramping was so severe you could compare it to the contractions with the baby," said the 26-year-old Springfield, Va., mother.

Since having two children and turning to a new form of birth control -- the IUD -- the cramps have subsided, she said, but the memories of missing running and swimming practices and staying in bed with a heating pad are still vivid.

Jones, like about 15 percent of all menstruating women, suffered from dysmenorrhea -- stabbing or aching lower abdominal or back pain that can cripple women for days each month.

For generations, the only treatment for menstrual pain was over-the-counter medicines like Motrin and Midol. But now, there may be a cure for the root cause of the cramping.

Scientists have created a pill that targets the cause of stomach cramps, rather than just treating its symptoms. The drug, known as VA111913, has been manufactured by the British company Vantia Therapeutics and is in clinical trials in Britain and in the United States.

So far, it has been proven safe and has few side effects and could be on the market in four years if secondary trials are successful.

'I think it would be fair to call it a breakthrough. There is certainly no other treatment like it," Vantia researcher Dr. Jim Phillips told Britain's Daily Mail. "From our research there is nothing to suggest it won't work."

During the next two months in the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will test the drug on 128 women between ages 18 and 35 who describe their menstrual pain as severe enough to interfere with daily life. They will receive VA111913 for a maximum of six days during their menstrual cycle.