Fibroid drug developer Myovant teams up to promote basic period care

What do most women need every month? Menstrual supplies. But not every woman can afford them, and they're not always readily available. That's why Myovant Sciences has teamed up with a group of young actors and their organization, Period Inc.

Myovant—a women's health biotech whose lead drug aims to treat uterine fibroids—is joining forces with that nonprofit group to help its student leaders arrange supplies for menstruating people and promote open conversation about periods.

Period Inc. chapters on 160 college campuses around the country distribute menstrual products to women in need, while setting up open forums and campaigns to lift the taboo on conversations about periods.

Myovant and Period launched their partnership last week by co-hosting a panel discussion on women's health at Harvard University, with former secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius as a panelist. (Sebelius also happens to be a member of Myovant's board.)

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Myovant CEO Lynn Seely, M.D., who also participated in the panel, said her company realized early on that women typically don't speak frankly and openly about the diseases Myovant wants to treat. 

“As we were forming the company, we became very interested in empowering women to be able to talk about [endometriosis and uterine fibroids] very normally," Seely said. "They shouldn’t have any stigma or embarrassment ... As we got further into it, we realized there are in fact very few conversations about periods at all.”

Myovant, whose in-development drug relugolix treats endometriosis and fibroids, came across Period Inc. by chance, and it was quickly drawn to the student initiative. Helmed by Harvard sophomore Nadya Okamoto, the nonprofit dates back to her high school years, when she and her family were homeless and her mother lost her job. While Okamoto couch-surfed with relatives for months, she discovered homeless women need—but often can't get—monthly feminine products.

Okamoto and her friend Vincent Forand founded the company at first to provide menstrual supplies to women in need, but has since expanded to encompass a larger “Menstrual Movement” aimed at talking openly about periods and advocating for changes, such repealing taxes on menstrual products and making supplies more widely available in public places.

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Myovant and Period plan what Seely called “crop duster” conversations around the country, and Myovant will also support Period's college chapter discussion groups, called “Ask Me About Periods.” The partners will co-launch a blog at the end of month to offer more education and information.

To date, Period has provided products for 220,000 periods for homeless women and other women in need.

“What happens when you don’t have any money and you’re on your period and you can’t afford to buy products?" Seely said. "It’s something that’s so normal, and if you need help you should be able to ask for it, but you can’t. So we’re trying to normalize the conversation while taking care of a real need that exists."

Meanwhile, Myovant is working to advance relugolix, an oral medication that treats symptoms of uterine fibroids and endometriosis. The drug is currently in phase 3 trials expected to report top-line results early next year. In October, Myovant announced positive phase 3 results from one trial, conducted in Asia by Takeda, which has licensed rights to the drug in some Asian markets.