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What Is Ospemifene Used For?

Women who have gone through menopause and experience moderate-to-severe painful sexual intercourse may benefit from using ospemifene. This pain occurs when menopause changes hormonal levels in women, which can cause vaginal dryness, itching, and burning. Ospemifene can help alleviate these symptoms. It can also be prescribed off-label to treat or prevent osteoporosis.

An Overview of Uses for Ospemifene

Ospemifene (Osphena™) is a prescription medication approved to treat moderate-to-severe painful sexual intercourse due to changes that occur in and around the vagina as a result of menopause.  

What Is Dyspareunia?

Painful intercourse is known medically as dyspareunia. Although it can occur in men or women, it more commonly affects women. Women with dyspareunia may experience pain before, during, or after sexual intercourse. There are many possible causes, including psychological concerns, medical conditions, and genital or urinary tract infections.
 
Some women may begin to experience painful intercourse during menopause. Menopause is the time in a woman's life that she stops having monthly periods. During menopause, a woman's body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This decrease can cause a variety of symptoms (see Menopause Symptoms to learn more).
 
The changing estrogen levels that occur during menopause can cause the walls of the vagina to become thinner and inflamed. This is known medically as vaginal atrophy (also sometimes called vulvovaginal atrophy). Vaginal atrophy can lead to vaginal dryness, itching, and burning. This can make sexual intercourse painful. In fact, vaginal atrophy is a common cause of painful sex in postmenopausal women.
 
Treatment for painful sexual intercourse due to vaginal atrophy includes lubricants or moisturizers and estrogen treatment. Many different products are available over-the-counter (OTC), without the need for a prescription.
 
Estrogen is a very effective treatment option for many women. It most cases, prescribers will recommend vaginal estrogen. This is placed directly into the vagina (as opposed to taken by mouth), usually in the form of a cream. Vaginal estrogen tablets and rings are also available. Because only a small amount of estrogen is absorbed from the vagina into the body, the risk for side effects is usually lower with these products compared to oral estrogen.
 
Ospemifene is an oral form of treatment. It comes in the form of a tablet that is taken by mouth each day. Ospemifene is not an estrogen. Instead, it belongs to a group of medicines known as estrogen receptor modulators. It is the first oral alternative to vaginal or oral estrogens approved to treat painful sex due to menopausal changes. In clinical studies, ospemifene was shown to improve moderate-to-severe painful sexual intercourse in postmenopausal women who had vaginal atrophy and identified painful sex as their most bothersome symptom as a result.
 
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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