Women suffering form fibroids, who until now had only an option of a hysterectomy or removal of the fibroid, now have an alternative of shrinking the fibroid with the drug Mifepristone. Lead researcher Steven H. Eisinger, MD, said that fibroids are a common and vexing problem in women and fibroid relief accounts for about 30% of all hysterectomies in the U.S. Women who are symptomatic could have back pain, pain with intercourse, problems with bowels and bladder, and most especially heavy bleeding. Many of these women are also chronically anemic.
Mifepristone was approved by the FDA in 2000 after a lot of controversies and since then studies have shown that the drug could be a possible contraceptive, a treatment for endometriosis, and a possible remedy for fibroids. Eisinger conducted a study with 20 women who all had large fibroids and multiple symptoms -- including heavy periods, pelvic pain and pressure, and lower back pain. The women were randomly asked to take either 5 mg or 10 mg of Mifepristone daily -- the very lowest doses. At the end of the study all women had a remarkable shrinkage of the fibroid, by about one-half. They also showed significant symptom relief.
An interesting fact about Mifepristone is that it stops monthly menstruation completely, giving many of these women with fibroids, who are chronically anemic, a chance to raise their blood count. They feel much better, healthier, and if they need surgery, they are much more likely to not require blood transfusion. Eisinger added that Mifepristone, compared to the currently available drug for fibroid-shrinking - Lupron (leuprolide acetate), would be cheaper and better tolerated and would work just as well. Lupron, used as a preoperative treatment to assist in the surgical removal of fibroids, decreases the body's production of estrogen to menopausal levels. Though this is useful in shrinking fibroids, side effects such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness can come with the estrogen decrease. Also Mifepristone has been shown in Eisinger's study as effective in all women, while it cannot be said so with Lupron. However, Elizabeth Ginsburg, MD, an Obstetrics/Gynecology and Fertility specialist at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston cautioned that there may be long-term safety issues connected with Mifepristone as almost a third of the women in Eisinger's study had developed hyperplasia of the lining of the uterus. Though, it is not a cancerous lesion, hyperplasia can become cancerous over many years' time.