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Breast Cancer Drug Shown to Help With Common Infertility Disorder

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Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who are having a hard time conceiving may consider switching to a new fertility drug after a large study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The study, which included 750 infertile women, found that letrozole (Femara), a breast cancer drug, may be more effective at helping women with PCOS get pregnant than the currently preferred medication, clomiphine (Clomid). Letrozole produces better results in ovulation, conception, and birth rates. Clomiphine, the most-used treatment today, has an increased probability of multiple births. More from HealthDay:

Researchers found that almost 28 percent of the women taking letrozole had babies after five cycles, compared with about 19 percent of those taking clomiphene.

Also, women taking letrozole had fewer twin pregnancies, compared with those taking clomiphene -- about 3 percent versus 7 percent, the study found.

"Clomiphine may be trumped," [lead researcher Dr. Richard Legro, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State University's College of Medicine in Hershey, Penn.] said. "To see a 40 percent improvement in birth rate is a huge difference."

For now, doctors such as Dr. Avner Hershlag, an infertility specialist at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y., are prescribing both letrozole and clomiphene to their patients. The choice of which prescription to use for a patient is based on several factors, such as insurance coverage and cost.

Roughly 5 to 10 percent of reproductive-age women in America have PCOS, making it the most common cause of female infertility. Symptoms include high levels of the male hormone androgen, irregular periods, and small cysts on the ovaries.

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