As you may know, a woman’s body naturally produces a variety of hormones that allow for conception, pregnancy, and fetal growth. In order to create a surrogate pregnancy, supplemental hormones and other medications must be used.
Lupron® is one of these drugs. Lupron®, manufactured by Takeda Abbott Pharmaceuticals [TAP], is a member of the class of medications known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone [GnRH] agonists. Lupron® is usually used in conjunction with birth control pills to synchronize the surrogate mother’s cycle with the intended mother’s or egg donor’s cycle prior to an embryo transfer. Lupron® prevents a woman’s natural cycle from interfering with the surrogacy process by inhibiting the secretion of hormones that control her cycle normally. In short, Lupron® prevents the ovaries from ovulation, giving the reproductive endocrinologist complete control over the surrogate’s menstrual cycle.
Surrogate mothers usually begin taking Lupron® about 14 days after starting birth control (a combination of estrogen and progesterone) and discontinue the drug days before the egg retrieval is performed on the intended mother or egg donor. Lupron® is not only used on the surrogate mother, but is also commonly used in the first step of the egg donation process to stop ovarian function prior before hyperstimulation of the ovaries.
Lupron® is a synthetic hormone and an “antineoplastic agent”, meaning that it is a cancer chemotherapy drug. Like all antineoplastic agents, Lupron® is harmful to both cancerous and non-cancerous cells; especially to pregnant women and developing fetuses! In fact, Lupron® has a Category X rating, which means if a woman gets pregnant while taking the drug there will be harm to the developing fetus. Sound bizarre? It should! Fertile egg donors might be sexually active and surrogate mothers are actively pursuing pregnancy!
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) categorize Lupron® as a “hazardous drug” that health care workers should only handle when wearing protective gowns and gloves. Interestingly, Lupron® is usually self-administered by injection using a ½ inch needle. Do you think protective gowns and gloves are provided to egg donors and surrogate mothers?
The side effects of Lupron® are many and include, but are not limited to:
- hot flashes
- tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
- hypotension (low blood pressure)
- constant gnawing/joint pain
- autoimmune diseases
- memory loss
- hematuria (blood in urine)
- Vitamin D deficiency
- degenerative disc disease
- blood disorders
Specifically, Lupron® use in preparing a gestational surrogate to receive transferred embryos has been documented to put a woman at risk for increased intracranial pressure. Even with all of these dangerous side effects, not one long term study has been conducted on the drugs use in third-party reproduction. Many women are continuing to suffer the side effects long after taking their last dose even though the pharmaceutical company states that the side effects should go away within 3-6 months.
Women involved in third-party reproduction aren’t the only ones affected by Lupron®. Lupron® is also used, with a combination of other drugs, to delay puberty in children who suffer from gender dysphoria and are medically transitioning. Lupron® has never been green-lighted by the FDA for this purpose, nor have there been any peer-reviewed studies done on the drug’s long-term physical and psychological side effects on children. Scott Newgent talks about the dangers of medically transitioning children who are often put on Lupron® on our podcast, Venus Rising.
In fact, Lupron® is only FDA-approved to treat endometriosis, prostate cancer, central precocious puberty (a condition that causes early sexual development in girls and boys), and fibroids. All other uses of Lupron® – including use in artificial reproduction, fertility treatment, and as a puberty blocker in medically transitioning children- are considered “off-label.” Even still, Takeda Abbott Pharmaceuticals has pushed this drug on fertility doctors to use their clinics. In the early 2000s, Takeda Abbott Pharmaceuticals plead guilty and paid over $875 million dollars in criminal fines, restitution and civil penalties for their illegal marketing, pricing manipulations, and unethical sales practices to induce doctors to prescribe Lupron®. The suit, brought under the federal Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) represents the largest pharmaceutical fine in history.
In 2008, the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) “believes that the [FDA] agency should review the safety and efficacy of Lupron® for both its approved and off-label uses. … a registry should be established to monitor the drug’s effect on women, as well as on any children exposed to Lupron® … In order to halt this drug from causing damage to even one more woman’s health, a concerted effort of women, physicians, health officials, researchers and media is needed. The decision to raise public awareness so that other women could be spared the physical, emotional and financial burdens Lupron causes would truly be in the interest of women’s health around the country. The people who are considering taking Lupron are the ones who have the right to know that they are risking a lifetime of symptoms that may cost them their jobs, spouses, savings and quality of life.”
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- Kallie Fell, MS, BSN, RN, started her professional career as a scientist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center utilizing a Master of Science degree in Animal Sciences with an emphasis on Reproductive Physiology and Molecular Biology from Purdue University. While assisting in the investigation of endometriosis and pre-term birth, Kallie simultaneously pursued a degree in nursing with hopes of working with women as a perinatal nurse. After meeting Jennifer at a conference, Kallie became interested in the work of the Center for Bioethics and Culture and started volunteering with the organization. It is obvious that Kallie is passionate about women’s health. She continues to work, as she has for the past 6 years, as a perinatal nurse and has worked with the CBC since 2018, first as a volunteer writer, then as our staff Research Associate, and now as the Executive Director. In 2021, Kallie co-directed the CBC’s newest documentary, Trans Mission: What’s the Rush to Reassign Gender? Kallie also hosts the popular podcast Venus Rising and is the Program Director for the Paul Ramsey Institute.