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Uterine Fibroids Health Center

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Pill Treats Painful Fibroids

Unlike Surgery, Morning-After Pill Can Reduce Fibroid Size, Bleeding Without Affecting Fertility
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 30, 2010 -- A drug used in Europe as emergency contraception may also treat painful uterine fibroids, researchers say.

Their study was presented at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome, Italy.

As many as 80% of all women have uterine fibroids (noncancerous growths in the uterus), according to the nonprofit National Uterine Fibroids Foundation. Fibroids may cause severe abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, and interfere with fertility in some women. Surgery is often the only way to treat painful, bleeding fibroids, but surgery too can sometimes compromise fertility.

Enter EllaOne, a member of a new class of drugs called selective progesterone receptor modulators. As of now, EllaOne is used in Europe as a morning-after pill because it blocks the effects of key hormones -- namely progesterone -- involved in ovulation. It is effective for up to five days after unprotected sex. Although EllaOne is not available in the U.S., an FDA advisory panel recently voted that it should be. The new drug is manufactured by HRA Pharma, a European pharmaceutical company, which provided funding for the new study. The hormone progesterone also feeds uterine fibroids, so blocking its effects may help treat painful fibroids.

New Drug Shrinks Fibroids

In the new study of 57 women aged 25 to 50 whose fibroids were causing symptoms, a large percentage of women who took the drug once a day for three menstrual cycles showed reductions in the size of their fibroids, compared with women who took a dummy pill or placebo. Women who took higher doses of the drug were more likely to have significant reductions in the size of their fibroids than women who took the lower dose.

The new drug also helped decrease bleeding compared with placebo, the study showed. During the third month of treatment, 80% of women who took the 10 milligram dose of the new drug and 95% who took the higher 20 milligram dose experienced no menstrual bleeding.

"The results of these trials are convincing and lead us to conclude that UPA is an effective non-invasive treatment for fibroids that can help maintain fertility in women whose only option up to now was to have surgery," study author Lynnette Nieman, MD, a senior investigator at the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, Md, says in a news release.

The new treatment also appears to be safe, the researchers report. Some women experienced transient increases in liver function tests, and a few showed changes in the endometrial lining of the uterus that have previously been seen with this class of drugs.

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