Drug makers in Japan are racing to put out new and increasingly powerful over-the-counter medications for a growth market: athlete’s foot.

While the athlete’s foot fungus typically thrives when humidity and the temperature rise in spring and summer, winter is no longer free of the threat.

In recent years, the number of female sufferers has been on the rise as poorly ventilated shoes, such as boots, are increasingly fashionable.

One estimate suggests there are potentially 20 million victims of athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, in Japan.

As the athlete’s foot fungus spreads, Japanese pharmaceutical companies have targeted the nonprescription market, helped by a health ministry decision last fall to allow the use of powerful antifungal agents for over-the-counter athlete’s foot medication.

Takeda Chemical Industries Ltd. has launched the antifungal drug Scorba and made it available in three forms: lotion, liquid and spray, the company’s latest hot product.

Takeda officials said the drug has strong antibacterial properties and contains a new active ingredient that penetrates deep into the stratum corneum, the dead and dying cells that form in the affected area.

Taisho Pharmaceutical Co. has released Damarin Ace, an athlete’s foot lotion that incorporates an antifungal agent developed by Kyorin Pharmaceutical Co.

Kyorin has responded by releasing its own version of the antifungal lotion, calling it Toe Cool.

Kyorin officials said the drug is highly potent and is able to zap the fungus by blocking its growth.

SSP Co. has launched the antifungal drug Atoranto Esu, both in lotion and liquid form. The company says the drug contains an antifungal agent developed by its scientists.

Dermatologists say it takes at least a month to cure the ailment but the fungus may still be alive even after the visible symptoms disappear.

“It is good to patiently apply antifungal medication for an additional month in order to completely eliminate the fungus,” a Takeda official said.

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