Drug Safety

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 408–421 | Cite as

Adverse Effects of Fertility Drugs

  • Seth G. Derman
  • Eli Y. Adashi
Review Article Drug Experience


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.


Adis International Limited Epithelial Ovarian Cancer Bromocriptine Luteal Phase Clomiphene 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seth G. Derman
    • 1
  • Eli Y. Adashi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Reproductive EndocrinologyUniversity of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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