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Eflornithine (Vaniqa)

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Vaniqa cream for facial hairVaniqa is a prescription cream that contains 13.9% eflornithine hydrochloride.  It was approved by the FDA in July 2000.  It is applied topically, twice a day to reduce the growth of unwanted facial hair.  Vaniqa will take between 4 and 8 weeks to reduce the amount of hair growing and it will never replace tweezing, waxing, shaving, electrolysis or laser hair removal, just reduce the frequency with which those methods are necessary.  For some women, it may take longer than 8 weeks to begin to be effective.  Of nearly 600 patients who participated in a clinical study on Vaniqa 70% had some degree of hair reduction after 24 weeks of twice daily treatment.  Interestingly, so did 41% of the placebo group.  In other studies, after twelve months of use 81% of women using Vaniqa showed clinical improvement in excess facial hair.

Between 7 & 14% of women using Vaniqa experienced acne as a side effect.  Other less common side effects from Vaniqa, affecting less than 1% of those using it include ingrown hairs, skin itching, stinging, burning or tingling, dry skin, rash, headache and hair loss.  Rare side effects include bleeding skin, swollen lips, nausea, numbness, contact dermatitis and herpes simplex.

Eflornithine, the active ingredient in Vaniqa cream, when applied to the skin inhibits an enzyme called ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) which plays a very important role in cell division and proliferation within the hair follicle.  It catalyses the conversion of ornithine into putrescine, which are required for the production of certain proteins, called polyamines, without which the hair follicle cannot grow.

Vaniqa cream is very expensive, generally around $100 per 30 grams, which is enough to last about one month when applied as a thin layer over a small area (upper lip, chin etc) twice a day.

More Information:

Malhotra B, Noveck R, Behr D, Palmisano M. (2001; 41: 972–978.). Percutaneous absorption and pharmacokinetics of Eflornithine HCI 13.9% cream in women with unwanted facial hair. J Clin Pharmacol.  PMID: 11549102

Schrode K, Huber F, Staszak J, Altman DJ, and the Eflornithine Study Group. Evaluation of the long-term safety of eflornithine 15% cream in the treatment of women with excessive facial hair. Presented at 58th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Dermatology 2000, 10–15 March, San Francisco; USA, Poster 294.

Schrode K, Huber F, Staszak, J, Altman DJ, Shander D, Morton J, and the Eflornithine Study Group.Randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled safety and efficacy evaluation of eflornithine 15% cream in the treatment of women with excessive facial hair. Presented at 58th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Dermatology 2000, 10–15 March, San Francisco; USA, Poster 291.

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