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Participants Needed for Infertility study

Media Release

20 June 2005

Participants Needed for Infertility study

Researchers from The University of Auckland are seeking more women to take part in a study to investigate whether a drug used for diabetes may help women with polycystic ovarian syndrome to conceive.

The research trial, being lead by Associate Professor Neil Johnson of the University's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, is testing whether the drug Metformin - a standard treatment for type 2 diabetes - may help.

Dr Johnson says that of the 53 women who have already completed the trial, 17 have become pregnant. The success rate is even higher if women can attain their ideal body weight.

One of those, Caren Erasmus is proud mother to a seven month old baby boy, Shane.

Before going on the trial she had been trying to conceive for around two years, but fell pregnant within three months of starting the trial.

Dr Johnson says Metformin may help women with polycystic ovary syndrome because the condition could be related to a resistance to insulin, a key factor in diabetes.

Women with the syndrome can be infertile because their ovaries do not produce eggs. Other symptoms of the syndrome are obesity, unwanted body hair, irregular periods and acne.

"It is thought high levels of insulin start a chain reaction affecting the growth of follicles in the ovary, resulting in the small 'cysts' typical of polycystic ovaries and difficulties with egg release leading to infertility," he says.

The established first line of treatment for infertility caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome is the anti-oestrogen pill, Clomiphene, a drug which also increases the chance of multiple pregnancies.

Dr Johnson says researchers think Metformin may be a more natural and physiological treatment because it improves insulin sensitivity.

"Trials have been carried out to see if Metformin has increased ovulation but, in most studies, they haven't looked at whether this then leads to pregnancies and birth."

The study will use both drugs with the intention of seeing whether Metformin is as good as or better than Clomiphene in helping women with this condition to successfully have healthy babies.

Although the trial is being co-ordinated in Auckland, women throughout the country can participate as the hospitals in Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch are also taking part.

The study began two years ago and Dr Johnson says he needs around 160 women with polycystic ovary syndrome to participate. They must be aged between 18 and 39 and have been trying for a baby for at least six months.

Caren Erasmus, 31, who lives on Auckland's North Shore, says the joy of having her baby son was immeasurable.

"We have been so lucky - we had been trying for two years when I found out from a friend about the study. Within four months I was pregnant," she says.

Women wishing to take part can call research nurses Debbie Richards or Jan Falkiner at The University of Auckland on 373 7599, extn 89487.


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