Women with uterine fibroids stand to gain routine access to a non-surgical treatment on the National Health Service for the first time, after cost regulators endorsed Gedeon Richter's once-daily pill Esmya as an option.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published updated guidelines backing Esmya (ulipristal) - a selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM) which acts by blocking receptors of the hormone progesterone - after clinical trials showed that it provides rapid control of bleeding, reduces anaemia and shrinks the size of fibroids.
Doctors can now prescribe up to four courses of the drug as a first-line treatment for patients presenting with heavy menstrual bleeding and uterine fibroids 3cm or more in diameter.
Around 40 in every 100 women develop uterine fibroids at some time in their life, and it is estimated that about 300,000 surgical procedures are performed annually in the EU for fibroids, including around 230,000 hysterectomies, which can affect a women's ability to have children.
In addition, surgical treatments are expensive for the NHS, having cost NHS England £119 million last year alone, so the availability of an alternative option could help save a substantial amount of cash.
"Uterine fibroids are extremely common and a significant proportion of women will experience associated symptoms, which can include heavy menstrual bleeding and severe pain" said Mr Ertan Saridogan, Consultant Gynaecologist, University College Hospital and The Portland Hospital. "Esyma has been proven to target the fibroids directly, both reducing growth and easing these symptoms, therefore improving a woman's quality of life."
"Up until now we have only been able to remove or shrink [fibroids] using procedures that require hospital admission," said Dr Sarah Gray of the Primary Care Women's Health Forum and a GP Specialist in Women's Health, Cornwall. "NICE has now affirmed that a medical treatment which requires only the taking of tablets is effective and can be offered to women by experienced doctors."