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Lupron and Endometriosis – What You Need to Know

Lupron and Endometriosis – What You Need to Know

Endometriosis PainFor women suffering from endometriosis, there often comes a point when they are willing to do just about anything to alleviate their pain. It is at that point, and sometimes sooner, when many doctors will prescribe a drug called Leuprolide Acetate, or Lupron for short. This is a GnRH drug which puts women into a temporary state of menopause, slowing the growth of endometriosis in most cases as the body’s estrogen and progestin stores are completely shut down.

The side effects can be difficult to endure, and many doctors will be upfront about what you can come to expect in the short term. Unfortunately, there is a more limited understanding of the long-term effects – effects which thousands of women are now claiming continue to plague them every single day after only short stints on Lupron for the treatment of endometriosis.

How Safe is Lupron for Treating Endometriosis & Infertility?

Originally designed as a chemotherapy drug for the treatment of prostate cancer, Lupron was approved by the FDA in 1990 for the treatment of endometriosis, and in 1995 for the treatment of uterine fibroids. It has never been formally approved for use in fertility treatments; however doctors have been designing In Vitro Fertilization protocols which start with the administration of Lupron for many years now.

When it comes to the treatment of endometriosis, Lupron typically comes in two different dosing forms for inducing temporary menopause. Patients will either receive a monthly 3.75mg shot or an every 3-month 11.25mg shot throughout the duration of their treatment. Many doctors will include an add-back hormone therapy for women currently receiving Lupron treatments. This includes a daily pill that women can take to add a small amount of estrogen/progestin back into their systems, with the purpose of diminishing some of the harder to endure short term effects of the drug.

Short Term Side Effects – Long Term Health Implications?

The openly acknowledged short term side effects of Lupron for the treatment of endometriosis are very similar to what a woman may experience while going through menopause. They include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, headaches, changes in mood, a decreased interest in sex, depression, and the occurrence of forgetfulness. Most patients who take Lupron will experience at least some of these side effects, to varying levels of severity. It is the long-term effects which can be truly frightening, however. Thinning of the bones is a recognized risk with Lupron treatments, and as such, it is not recommended that any patient be on the drug for longer than 6 months. Few women have also reported developing severe long-term health issues, such as joint pain, fibromyalgia, and horrible memory loss as a result of Lupron. Previously active and fit women have been reduced to wheelchairs in some cases, and instances of death have even occurred but these were mostly in men over the age of 60 who had prostate cancer and were on the drug for 1-2 years.

While these potential long-term effects are reported as being very rare by the drugs manufacturers, Takeda-Abbott Pharmaceuticals, a survey out of the Endometriosis Research Center (a patient advocacy group) had over half the respondents reporting long term effects lasting longer than 6 months after discontinuing the use of Lupron. Nearly a quarter of those same respondents reported side effects lasting longer than 5 years. A 1999 report from the FDA had adverse drug reactions for 4,228 women – 25 of whom died.

Still, no real movement has occurred in terms of further evaluating the safety of Lupron, although advocacy groups are starting a large push in bringing the issue to the attention of congress. Meanwhile, women continue to receive a drug that is harming many of them – a drug that The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) actually categorize as being a “hazardous drug”, requiring medical workers to wear protective gowns and gloves when handling it. In 2010, the FDA did release an ongoing safety review of Lupron and other GnRH agonists like it, recommending that “healthcare professionals should be aware of these potential safety issues and carefully weigh the benefits and risks of GnRH agonists when determining treatment”. Yet the drug continues to be regularly prescribed to women who simply have blind faith in their doctors and medical practitioners.

In many cases, those doctors and medical practitioners don’t even seem to be aware of how hazardous Lupron could really be. They are quick to site the short term effects, without fully recognizing the potential long-term health consequences. Often it is gynecologists prescribing Lupron to their patients; doctors who are treating a variety of conditions on any given day, and are not necessarily experts on endometriosis or the best treatments available. The top specialists in the field have all begun shying away from the use of Lupron, veering more towards improved surgical techniques and other treatment options today. The problem they see with Lupron is that it is only a temporary fix – a Bandaid on a pulsing wound at best. It may buy patients up to 6 months of relief while they are on the drug, but once Lupron is discontinued – those symptoms return. The long-term risks aren’t worth the short term benefits in the eyes of many endometriosis experts.

Is Lupron Right for You?

Every patient has to make their own determinations regarding the treatment plans they feel comfortable with, and in at least many cases – Lupron users will experience no long-term side effects as a result of the drug. However, there do seem to be other options that don’t require medically inducing menopause worth considering, including the use of the natural supplement Pycnogenol which produced a greater reduction of symptoms compared to Lupron in a 2007 study printed in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, with virtually none of the same side effects.

Too many women have suffered at the hands of Lupron, without any real understanding of who will experience those long-term health effects. Arm yourself with information and make an informed decision before agreeing to this treatment path. In many cases, there are far better options to consider first.

Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Kimberly Langdon Cull is a University-trained Obstetrician/Gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She delivered over 2000 babies and specializes in gynecologic diseases such as menstrual disorders, infertility diagnosis and treatment especially pertaining to tubal blockage and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Dr. Langdon is the inventor of 6 patent pending medical devices, and attended Ohio State University from 1987-1995 receiving her Medical Doctorate Degree (M.D.) with Honors in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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  1. Avatar

    My special needs daughter is On coupon 6months now it has been bell I am not sure what to do her doc says she can do it for a year.I am a little worried after reading this article.


  3. Avatar

    I just had a laparoscopic procedure done in November to diagnose and remove any endometriosis in my body. I only showed Stage 1 as there was very little, however this past week and a half I have been miserable in pain. My doctor suggested the Lupron shot, but I am very hesitant for it. Any advice?

    • Dear Karen,

      I am sorry to here this!

      Do learn more about Pycnogenol as we share above. Here is a guide with more… Pycnogenol: Better for Endometriosis than Anything Your Doctor Can Give You?

      We also have several women learn more about an herbal supplement called Women’s Best Friend and Systemic Enzyme Therapy along with dietary changes, all of which we share more on in our guide 5 Steps to Reversing Endometriosis Infertility. The tips in that guide are worth considering inspite of having stage 1 endometriosis as removal of lesions isn’t correcting the cause of their growth.

    • Avatar

      I have been through 2 six month rounds of Luron. I handled it pretty well, all possible side effects considered, and I still wouldn’t recommend it unless you feel like you have no other option. (Or your only other option is a hysterectomy.) I have found that a combination of Midol and Tylenol plus the use of a heating pad resolved most of my pain and in my case, the pain usually only lasted 1 day per month. My side effects with Lupron, in the short term included excessive, unstoppable weight gain, exhaustion, hot flashes, night sweats and moodiness. I don’t even know how much it has damaged my bones. For me, not worth it. Also, my periods were longer after and heavier after.

  4. Avatar

    Hello all! I am a 33 yr old that just had Da Vinci assisted surgery for endo, a large fibroid on my uterus and another cyst on my left ovary. It has been a month since my surgery and I just had my 1st period and it was the worst pain I had ever felt (of course I thought the worst pain I had felt was before my surgery, but nooo) and yesterday I got the Lupron 3 month shot. Of course its my own fault for not doing any research until now but I trusted my Dr. to be making all the best decisions. I am now thinking that I should be taking another course of action. I have not had children yet and my partner and I would like to have children. Any advice anyone can give me would be great!

    • Hello Andrea!

      I am sorry your period was so painful!

      First, do not beat yourself up for your choice! There is no fault, share with your doctor your concerns if any arise as you make your way through the three months, and know that we can not know if there will be long-term implications of Lupron use for you. There may not be! Focus there!

      Then, continue to educate yourself on natural therapies if you feel they are a good fit for you. We share of many in our guide
      5 Steps to Reversing Endometriosis Infertility. We can not suggest combining herbs with medications, yet there are many dietary changes and natural therapies (like Self Fertility Massage for example) that can be considered.

      We also offer one on one Fertility Consultations if that might be most helpful. Through a Fertility Consultation, you will submit your comprehensive intake form, including information about your fertility history, your 3 detailed questions and overall goal for your fertility and within 5 business days one of our Master Herbalists will review, layout and explain each step of your consultation. It’s a great way when not sure where to start or how to proceed with natural therapies.

      Take care!

  5. Avatar

    Please do not take this medicine and if you are considering it do your homework. As this article states I was desperate in pain and was willing to do whatever it took to ease it. Unfortunately I experienced 5 side effects that has scared me for life. The hot flashes are/were UNBEARABLE!! I though I am/was going to lose my mind. I went to the drs yesterday to reverse the Lupron. Hopefully it won’t be too long to take it’s course. I usually am more aimed with information but didn’t do it this time. Please …… SAVE YOURSELF! DO NOT DO IT!

  6. Avatar

    I have endo for25 years now! I’ve tried lupron, fentynal, hydromorphone, I’ve had a complete hysterectomy. I’m still in pain every day. Now my 15 year daughter has endo and her doctor has convinced her to start using lupron, I told the doctor I don’t want her to, but it’s not my choice any more.

  7. Avatar

    Hello I have been 6 months On Lupron I would like to know when is my period coming back?

    • Dear Ana,

      Lupron is a GnRH drug that puts women into a temporary state of menopause. While using this medication, you may not menstruate. It may be worth discussing the use of Lupron with your healthcare provider if you wish to menstruate and/or conceive naturally.

  8. Avatar

    I have been on the Lupron injection for five years now, I have begun to notice joint pain and stiffness. I have trouble with my hips now and leg cramps. I am only 23.

    I have had three laparoscopies to remove endometriosis; four doctors have told me “they have never seen someone my age have endometriosis so bad. . .” They have told me I can not have children, yet at the same time they don’t want to do a hysterectomy because of “my age group.” I am so miserable all the time and I just want to be done with endo. Is there any hope for me?

    • Dear Megan,

      I’m so sorry you are having to go through this!

      I certainly would like to think there is hope for you. I am sorry endometriosis is still challenging you after surgery. Endometriosis is estrogen-sensitive, meaning that it responds to estrogen — growing in response to circulating estrogen. Excess estrogen in one of the main culprits in causing its growth and it is important to support the body’s natural ability to remove excess estrogen from the body, even after surgery.

      It is equally important to support the body in maintaining its natural inflammatory response, providing it relief from discomfort in the reproductive system and encouraging normal circulation, helping to bring fresh blood and oxygen to the reproductive system. The articles The Best Natural Alternative Therapies for Endometriosis and 5 Steps to Reversing Endometriosis Infertility will help you learn how we feel it is best to do this.

      It may also help to learn about and even ask your healthcare provider about Excision Surgery for Endometriosis.

      Know that we also offer one on one Fertility Consultations if a personalized program might be more helpful. Our fertility herbalist is more than happy to work with you.

      All my best!

    • Avatar

      Dear Megan,

      I know how you feel. I think you should try Traditional Chinese Medicine. Before I used to feel like you, I couldn’t work or do even simple things, but acupuncture and herbs made me smile again and get the energy to work and do things. Chinese doctors have given me hope on having children. Look for a doctor that someone recommends to you. There’re a lot of scamming, taking advantage of desperate people. Don’t lose hope… I send you a big big hug because I know how you feel, but I want you to know that there’s hope.

  9. Avatar

    Are these side effects only for the brand name Lupron or can these side effects also been seen in Zoladex also a GnRH drug? I have been on Zoladex for several periods of 6 months experiencing symptoms of menopause while on the drug.

    • Dear Eudia,

      It would be best to take time to research the side effects of Zoladex either online, via the paperwork given with the prescription, or by talking with your pharmacist or healthcare provider. I am not a pharmacist who knows medication’s side effects.

      I am sorry you are experiencing the side effects you are!