Do common fertility treatments work?

Women who take two commonly-used fertility treatments, including the Sanofi Aventis pill Clomid, do not have a significantly better chance of getting pregnant than those who try naturally, British researchers have said.

This means doctors should rethink giving women the drug, known generically as clomiphene citrate, to stimulate the ovaries or administering a type of artificial insemination, said Siladitya Bhattacharya, who led the study.

"Traditionally over the last 30 or 40 years some treatments have crept into our repertoire without being robustly (tested)," said Bhattacharya, a gynecologist at Aberdeen University.

"What we found - rather surprisingly - is that these treatments did not produce a greater chance of pregnancy leading to live birth compared to no treatment."

One in six couples worldwide experience some form of infertility problem at least once and more couples are seeking assisted reproductive treatment.

The study
The British study looked at the third of women for whom doctors cannot pinpoint a cause of infertility. These women often take Sanofi Aventis' Clomid or undergo a type of artificial insemination called unstimulated intrauterine insemination as first-line treatments.

The researchers recruited 580 volunteers, a third of whom were encouraged to try to conceive naturally and another two groups who were given the pill or had artificial insemination.

During the study 101 women became pregnant and gave birth, including 17% in the group who tried naturally, 14% among those who took the pill and 23% of volunteers who were artificially inseminated.

This differences were not big enough to be statistically significant, Bhattacharya and colleagues wrote in the British Medical Journal.
"The message of this trial is people should think more carefully about going into these treatments as a fait accompli," he added in a telephone interview.

The findings underscore the need to review widespread guidelines in many countries calling on doctors to use the two treatments, he said.

Sanofi had no immediate comment.

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