It’s the viagra for infertile women!

One of the accidental-opportunistic science stories I love most is viagra.  Viagra was initially developed as a blood pressure medication.  Once the human clinical trials started, it became clear the drug caused an interesting blood pressure… redistribution, shall we say?  Out with hypertension, in with erectile dysfunction, and the ad team went nuts with commercials starring smiling elderly couples and little blue pills.

I picked up my letrozole (femara) today.  I had read up on it before, last summer when researching various treatment options for my absent eggs.  I had forgotten that letrozole is primarily prescribed to combat breast cancer in post-menopausal women.  Certain breast cancers grow and spread much more quickly in the low-estrogen environment of menopause, and the aromatase inhibition that letrozole mediates can help rebalance hormones, and thus slow the cancer’s progression.  This hormone balancing (and boosting, for FSH and estrogen) is pretty handy for annovulatory ladies whose bodies just don’t gear up the way they should (read: me).

What I wasn’t expecting were the following warnings attached in no less than three places on my prescription package:

“DO NOT USE THIS MEDICINE if you are pregnant” (no fear there)

“AVOID BECOMING PREGNANT while you are taking it” (wait, what?)

“IF YOU MAY BECOME PREGNANT, YOU MUST USE EFFECTIVE BIRTH CONTROL while you take this medicine” (uh huh, or an IUI?)

These are targeting recently menopausal women who may well throw an egg during the course of the drug given their relatively unpredictable cycles.  I am sure the half-life of the drug is such that it is well and fully metabolized a week after the last pill, or they would not be able to use it for reproductive stimulation.  It explains the baseline ultrasound I have to do on day 1 or 2 though: the clinic has to make sure I am not going to ovulate within the week.

What I really want to know now is whether Viagra comes with similarly off-kilter labels:

“DO NOT USE THIS MEDICINE during activities that will cause elevated heart rates”

“AVOID HIGH SENSORY STIMULATION while on this medicine”

“IF YOU GET AN ERECTION just quietly sit and wait for it to subside, do not call upon your partner for sexy times”

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