As part of our educational series on fertility drugs, I would like to discuss some interesting facts about fertility medications that you may not know about. These facts are strange but true!
A couple struggling with infertility may be prescribed one or several fertility medications to help them get pregnant. Many of these medications are created in unique and inventive methods. Here is a sample of those methods.
Menopur® is a medication commonly used to help recruit and mature eggs during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. Menopur® contains both Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). LH and FSH are both called menotropins as both LH and FSH are created in high quantities during menopause. The high concentrations for both FSH and LH are eliminated from the body into the urine. Thus, the urine of postmenopausal women is naturally high in menopausal hormones, FSH and LH.
Believe it or not, Menopur® is derived from the highly purified urine of postmenopausal women. However, the original group of women from which the urine was collected was postmenopausal nuns! My patients have affectionately called Menopur® the holy shot.
Gonal-f and Follistim
Gonal-f® and Follistim® are also medications prescribed to help recruit eggs during IVF or an intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycle. These medications contain pure FSH, which is also known as a gonadotropin. No, these medications are not derived from highly purified gonads. However, these medications are made via recombinant DNA.
Recombinant DNA technology occurs by transplanting a DNA sequence that codes for the production of the desired gonadotropin into a host organism (such as bacteria or other cell lines) whereby this foreign DNA is expressed to create the desired medication. A host organism is much faster and more proficient at making the medication. Thus, a large amount of medication with specific activity can be made quickly and efficiently. After the medication is produced, it is highly purified.
Believe it or not, Gonal-f® and Follistim® are made via recombinant DNA technology using Chinese hamster ovary cell lines that have been transfected with the DNA sequences encoding for the gonadotropin. Who knew that Chinese hamster ovaries would help millions of women around the world get pregnant?!
Although the origins of the medications used during IVF or IUI may be bizarre and curious, the outcome from their usage is absolutely beautiful: a healthy baby!
Source: Gonal-f® package insert by Serono, Follistim® package insert by Merck, and Menopur® package insert by Ferring.
Dr. Lowell T. Ku, M.D. is an award winning and leading Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility specialist at Dallas IVF, one the nation’s premiere infertility centers. Dr. Ku clarifies the many confusing terms used in the world of Infertility using straightforward explanations.