If you’ve ever had a vaginal yeast infection, you know how uncomfortable it can be. The itching, the swelling, the funky discharge. What’s worse, it’s also extremely common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that yeast infections affect more than 75% of women at least once in their lifetime.
Treatment for vaginal yeast infections usually involves an antifungal medication. Many of the options out there are applied inside the vagina to stop the growth of the fungus. Some are available over the counter, such as Monistat®. Others are prescription strength, such as terconazole.
There are also external creams such as Vagisil® that help relieve symptoms of burning and irritation. Until recently, the only antifungal option that could be taken by mouth was the prescription medication fluconazole (Diflucan®). (Search our coupons to see how much you can save on Diflucan today.)
In June 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new oral prescription to treat vaginal yeast infections. It’s called ibrexafungerp, or Brexafemme®. And it’s the first FDA approval in a new class of antifungal medications in more than 20 years.
So how does this new medication compare to the other tried-and-true yeast infection treatments? Here’s what you need to know.
How is Brexafemme different?
Like Diflucan, it’s a pill that you take to treat vaginal yeast infections. Many people find relief within 10 days of their first dose.
What makes it different is how it works. “The most significant benefit of Brexafemme is that it is fungicidal, meaning that it kills the fungus,” says Maureen Whelihan, MD. She’s a gynecologist practicing in Palm Beach County, Florida. “Diflucan, on the other hand, is fungistatic, meaning that it just slows the growth of the fungus.”
Brexafemme also attacks the fungus differently than any other option on the market. Internal yeast infections are caused by fungi called candida. And there are many different strains of candida. Brexafemme has been shown to fight more strains than traditional treatments. And this gives people with tricky-to-treat infections another option.
With Diflucan, the typical treatment is 1 tablet. But if the infection doesn’t go away, you may be told to take 1 tablet twice a week, or to take 1 tablet each week for 3 weeks. “With Diflucan, we are finding that often we need to do a prolonged therapy,” Dr. Whelihan says. “I would hope that the new product does a better job with persistent or resistant yeast infections.”
Who should take Brexafemme?
Always check in with your doctor before treating a yeast infection. An estimated 2 out of 3 people who treat yeast infections themselves don’t actually have one, says the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. And this can make infections harder to treat when you do get them.
But if you do have a yeast infection, your treatment may depend on how severe the infection is. “Brexafemme is probably not necessary for every woman with a yeast infection,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD. She’s a gynecologist and clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University. “Diflucan is an effective treatment for many. But for women who have a tough yeast infection, Brexafemme is effective against more strains.”
It’s also important to consider the cost. The price of Brexafemme is estimated at $475 for a 4-tablet treatment. The average out-of-pocket price for Diflucan is around $30.
No matter how effective they are, new treatments can be expensive. Download our app today to see how much you can save.
Brexafemme is not approved for pregnant women. The FDA is requiring SCYNEXIS, the company that makes Brexafemme, to study whether it is risky for pregnant women, newborns or a baby developing in the womb. For now, your health care provider may ask you to take a pregnancy test before treatment. And if you’re on birth control, you should continue taking it while on Brexafemme.
When will Brexafemme be available?
It should be on the market before the end of 2021. “It is good to know that there is another antifungal medication out there that will work if the yeast infection turns out to be resistant to Diflucan,” Dr. Minkin says.
In the meantime, a bit of self-care can go a long way toward preventing pesky yeast infections. If you have diabetes, aim to keep your blood sugar within your normal range, advises Dr. Minkin. And avoid taking unnecessary antibiotics, she adds. You can also avoid using scented tampons, pads or down-there sprays. And let your nether region breathe. Change out of wet swimsuits and workout clothes as soon as you can. And opt for cotton (aka breathable and dry) underwear. You can read about other causes of yeast infections here.
If all else fails, rest assured that there are more treatment options than ever to help you find relief.
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Vaginal yeast infection overview: USDA Office on Women’s Health
Brexafemme approval: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Research on Brexafemme: Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology (2021). “Ibrexafungerp, a Novel Oral Triterpenoid Antifungal in Development: Overview of Antifungal Activity Against Candida glabrata”