eflornithine, Vaniqa

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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GENERIC NAME: eflornithine

BRAND NAME: Vaniqa

DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Eflornithine is the first topical drug (used on the skin) for the treatment of unwanted facial and chin hair. It does not remove the hair but rather slows its growth. The cells surrounding the base of each hair (called the hair follicle) undergo rapid growth and maturation as they transform into hairs. Certain proteins called polyamines are needed for this rapid cell growth and differentiation, and the production of these polyamines depends on the activity of an enzyme, ornithine decarboxylase (ODC). Eflornithine is believed to block ODC, slowing the growth and differentiation of the cells within the hair follicles. Eflornithine was approved by the FDA in July 2000.

PRESCRIBED FOR: Eflornithine is used to slow hair growth on the face and chin in women ages 12 and older.

Almost 600 patients were studied who routinely had to remove facial hair at least twice weekly and had more than 5 hairs per square centimeter of skin. The re-growth of hair was evaluated 48 hours after patients shaved before, during, and at the end of treatment. The patients received either eflornithine cream or a placebo cream twice daily for 24 weeks. By the end of 24 weeks of treatment, 70% of eflornithine-treated patients had at least some reduction in the rate of hair growth compared with 41% of placebo-treated patients. Moreover, 35% of eflornithine-treated patients had a marked reduction in the rate of growth (only minimal darkening of facial skin due to re-growth of hair) compared to 9% of placebo-treated patients.

SIDE EFFECTS: The most common side effects seen with eflornithine are:

  • acne,
  • swollen patches that are sometimes reddened and contain a buried hair (pseudofolliculitis barbae),
  • headache,
  • skin itching,
  • stinging,
  • burning,
  • dry or tingling skin,
  • rash,
  • hair loss, and
  • ingrown hairs.

Other important, but less common side effects are:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/22/2015

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