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Drug Saf. 1994 Dec;11(6):408-21.

Adverse effects of fertility drugs.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA.

Erratum in

  • Drug Saf 1995 Mar;12(3):208.


Ovulation-induction agents are commonly used in the treatment of infertility in patients with or without ovulatory disturbances. These agents include clomifene, bromocriptine, gonadotrophin preparations and gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and its analogues. Each agent is associated with its own specific adverse effects. Although many of these adverse effects are benign and self-limited, some, in particular those effects associated with gonadotrophins, may be life-threatening. Commonly noted adverse effects encountered with the use of pharmacological agents to treat infertility include the following. Clomifene has been associated with hot flushes, multiple gestation, visual disturbances, cervical mucus abnormalities and luteal phase deficiency. Similarly, most of the adverse symptoms associated with bromocriptine are short-lived, such as nausea and postural hypotension. On the other hand, gonadotrophin therapy, even when used appropriately, may lead to the ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (which is occasionally life-threatening) and a high incidence of multiple gestation. Pulsatile GnRH therapy maybe accompanied by similar adverse effects to those of gonadotrophins, but with a far lower incidence. With regards to the long term safety of these medications, the relationship between fertility drugs and epithelial ovarian cancer is controversial, and causality has yet to be proven. Indeed, a working knowledge of the many adverse effects associated with these medications is essential to any physician prescribing ovulation induction agents, in order to ensure maximum patient safety, compliance and understanding.

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