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    Cetrotide: New Fertility Drug Reduces Hot Flashes In Women

    By Margarita Nahapetyan

    A powerful fertility drug that prevents premature ovulation during fertility treatments may become very useful for older women by reducing and even stopping hot flashes, according to the results of a new small study of women who enter menopause.

    A team of researchers led by Dr. Hans de Boer, an endocrinologist at the Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem, the Netherlands, have reported recently that the injectable drug Cetrotide (cetrorelix), made by Merck Serono, a subsidiary of the German company Merck, helps relieve the symptoms of hot flashes by blocking the action of a key brain hormone LHRH (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone), which the study's authors suggest, may be involved in the development of hot flashes.

    Primarily, Cetrotide is used by doctors to stop premature ovulation in women who use fertility drugs but the medication has also been studied for use in female patients who suffer hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer.

    Many people do not consider it a serious problem, but hot flashes can greatly interfere with the quality of a woman's life. The condition is characterized by a sudden sensation of increased heat which can raise a woman's body temperature by as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of minutes and which in most cases is followed by perfuse perspiration. Besides causing discomfort, hot flashes can seriously affect a woman's quality of sleep. The condition can occur as often as two times during one hour and is debilitating in one in 6 older women. Treatments with hormones relieve hot flashes, but carry a risk of developing cancer, stroke or other serious conditions.

    For the new study purposes, Dr. de Boer and his colleagues involved just three women who all entered menopause after the removal of their ovaries, which had occurred several years earlier. One woman was 65 years of age and started experiencing severe hot flashes after the discontinuation of estrogen-replacement therapy. The other lady was 49 years of age and had survived breast cancer, whereas the third patient, who was 59 years old, had survived endometrial cancer. All the three patients were administered daily injections of cetrorelix for at least 20 weeks, according to the new report. And, hot flash symptoms were reduced between 60 per cent and 80 per cent, according to the investigators.

    To be more particular, in the first, 65-year-old patient, daily injections of Cetrotide brought down the number of hot flashes from about 8 to 2 or less on a daily basis, and the effects of the medication lasted for a month and a half after the drug was being discontinued. When the patient started to use the medication again, the number of hot flashes was significantly reduced. A second participant, aged 49, came down from more than 20 episodes of hot flashes a day to nearly 12 episodes, and down to 5 flashes when the dose of the drug was doubled to twice a day. "She had breast cancer and suffered terribly. She could not sleep any more because of the hot flashes. All her hot flashes completely disappeared during the night, and during the day there was an 80 per cent reduction," de Boer explained in the telephone interview.

    As to the third, 59-year-old overweight woman, the treatment initially failed for her, but her episodes dropped down by 80 per cent within 5 days after the dose of Cetrotide was doubled. The investigators noted that the effectiveness of the medication was similar to what the professionals would expect from estrogen-replacement therapy and exceeded the 25 to 30 per cent decreases that were observed with placebo.

    "These preliminary findings are very promising and could be a breakthrough in the search for an effective and safe treatment for severe flushes," De Boer said. The expert also added that a larger study with a placebo and involving around sixty women was expected to start in the nearest future.

    The new findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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