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I-Team: Popular female drug has side effects

The I-Team investigates a drug that thousands of women take for many female medical problems.
The I-Team investigates a drug that thousands of women take for many female medical problems.

The I-Team discovered many patients report numerous side effects after taking Lupron.

A Wake County woman, on a national crusade, tells the I-Team what happened to her after taking this popular drug.

Emily Page is the owner of the Artistic Abandon studio in North Raleigh.

Looking at her, you would never know that for years she has suffered from extreme pain.

Emily explained that she had, "really debilitating cramps."

"I would be throwing up from them because they were so bad. A doctor said, 'Yes, you have stage two endometriosis,'" she said.

Endometriosis is a common health problem for women. It is an overgrowth of tissue outside the uterus which causes severe pelvic pain and irregular bleeding. It affects more than five million women.

Back in 2001, Emily says her doctor told her an injection would make the pain go away.

"My doctor recommended a course of Lupron, so I took it for four months," she said. "I started getting cluster headaches, I couldn't get out of bed."

Dr. Tom Price is a specialist at the Duke Fertility Clinic.

"Depot Lupron is a long-acting form. There is one type that is used for one month, and then there's another dosage used for three months that is used to treat diseases," said Price. "Then there is daily Lupron, which is mainly used in fertility."

In 2001, when Emily started taking Lupron, the drug's package insert stated these adverse effects in its clinical trials: nausea, headaches, dizziness and neuromuscular disorders.

However, Emily says she never saw the insert since her doctor administered the drug, and she says he never warned her about the side effects.

"I couldn't work. I couldn't do anything," she explained.

Dr. Price tells his patients about the side effects before he gives them the drug.

"The biggest health risk of Depot Lupron is bone loss," he said.

The I-Team filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FDA to find out how many women have complained about the drug's side effects, and received a 223 page report.

It includes more than 550 reports from doctors and patients of adverse effects ranging from headaches to amnesia and convulsions, just in the past five years.

Lupron was approved by the FDA more than 25 years ago.

Dr. Price told the I-Team he counteracts side effects in his patients by adding additional medication, what he calls, "add-back therapy."

"We discuss the side effects. We discuss how important it is to take the hormone add-back therapy to prevent bone loss while they're on the medication," he said.

Emily says she was given add-back therapy but it didn't help.

The I-Team discovered several websites, with stories from women who call themselves "Lupron victims."

Emily started an online petition 10 years ago. She said she heard from more than 1,000 women who say they suffered from Lupron.

Back at her Raleigh art studio all these years later, Emily Page is undeterred in her crusade to warn other women.

"It's still something I struggle with, and I lost a big part of my life because of it," she said.

The I-Team spoke with ABB-VIE, the current drug company which produces Lupron.

The company refused an on-camera interview, but issued this statement: "Lupron Depot has more than two decades of clinical experience and is an important treatment option for patients with endometriosis. The known risks of Lupron Depot are clearly outlined in the prescribing information."

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