What's New A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that women prone to vaginal yeast infections may get long-term relief from a weekly dose of fluconazole, an antifungal drug sold as Diflucan. Most women will have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime -- with symptoms such as itching, burning and vaginal discharge. Five to 8 percent have recurring infections, according to lead researcher Jack Sobel, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at Wayne State University School of Medicine.

The Study In research funded by Pfizer, Diflucan's manufacturer, 387 patients diagnosed with yeast infections were randomly treated with Diflucan or a placebo for six months. More than 90 percent of those taking Diflucan stayed infection-free (compared with 36 percent on placebo). Three months later, nearly three-quarters of the Diflucan group remained free of yeast infection (compared with 28 percent); after six months, 43 percent were infection-free (compared with 22 percent). Women who developed infections tended to do so within weeks of stopping treatment. The only side effect was nausea. Hair loss, a side effect reported in some other studies, was not seen here.

The Impact Sobel said he hopes insurers will now cover preventive use; until now they've only paid for Diflucan prescribed for treatment. Regardless, patients just got some price relief: Beginning in August, the drug has been available as a generic. That means a savings of about $7 per dose, according to prices quoted by local pharmacies.

-- Rita Zeidner