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Femara Trumps Clomid as Ovulation Drug, Study Finds

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July 11, 2014

Move over, Clomid. There’s a better ovulation-inducing fertility drug for women with PCOS.

A recent study out of Penn State Division of Reproductive Endocrinology, funded by the NIH and published July 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine, has found that Femara (letrozole) may be the better choice for inducing ovulation in women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Femara, commonly used to treat breast cancer, seems to have better results with fewer risks, the study suggests.

As much as 10% of women of reproductive age have PCOS, and it is the leading cause of female infertility in the United States. PCOS is characterized by anovulation due to hormone imbalances as it largely affects the endocrine system. Women with PCOS may or may not be overweight, and may or may not have cysts on their ovaries.

Participants in the Penn State study were 750 women with PCOS. Half of the participants were prescribed Clomid; the other half Femara. Treatments were administered over the course of five cycles, and dosages were increased each cycle. Those assigned to the Femara test group had a higher rate of ovulation than the Clomid control group: 62% successful ovulation with Femara versus 48% with Clomid. There were a greater number of successful pregnancies after completion of five cycles in the Femara group (28% compared to 19%), and fewer twin pregnancies (3% occurrence of twin pregnancies in the Femara group versus 7% in the Clomid group).

For years, Clomid has been used as a first line fertility treatment for women with ovulation disorders. Both Clomid and Femara block estrogen receptors at the brain, signaling increased production of the hormone within the ovaries. However, Femara’s increased efficacy and lower risk of multiples may make it a preferred choice amongst fertility doctors. “We found a simple and comparatively safe and vastly more effective treatment for [polycystic ovary syndrome],” said principal investigator Richard Legro, M.D., F.A.C.O.G, Reproductive Endocrinologist at Penn State Hershey Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The cost of Femara is similar to Clomid (about $50 per cycle), making it both cost and health effective for fertility patients with the ovulation disorder.

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