What is eflornithine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

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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.

What brand names are available for eflornithine?

Vaniqa

Is eflornithine available as a generic drug?

No

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Do I need a prescription for eflornithine?

Yes

What are the side effects of eflornithine?

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:

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What is the dosage for eflornithine?

Eflornithine should be applied in a thin layer around the affected facial areas and chin and rubbed-in thoroughly. It is applied twice daily with at least eight hours between applications or as directed by a physician. Eflornithine should not be washed away from the skin for at least eight hours after application. Cosmetics and sunscreens may be applied once the treated area has dried. Hair removal techniques such as tweezing should be continued. The hands should be washed immediately after using eflornithine.

Is eflornithine safe to take if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

There have been no studies of eflornithine therapy in pregnant women.

It is not known if eflornithine is secreted into breast milk.

What else should I know about eflornithine?

What preparations of eflornithine are available?

Eflornithine is available as a 30 gram tube of cream at a concentration of 13.9%.

How should I keep eflornithine stored?

Eflornithine should be stored at room temperature, 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F) and should not be frozen.

Medically Reviewed on 3/15/2019

References

Medically reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP; Board Certified Emergency Medicine

REFERENCE:

FDA Prescribing Information