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Follistim (Follitropin Beta) - Warnings and Precautions



Follistim® (follitropin beta for injection) should be used only by physicians who are experienced in infertility treatment. Follistim® is a potent gonadotropic substance capable of causing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) (see WARNINGS-Overstimulation of the Ovary During Follistim® Therapy) with or without pulmonary or vascular complications (see WARNINGS-Pulmonary and Vascular Complications) and multiple births (see WARNINGS-Multiple Births). Gonadotropin therapy requires the availability of appropriate monitoring facilities (see PRECAUTIONS-LaboratoryTests).

Overstimulation of the Ovary During Follistim® Therapy

In order to minimize the hazards associated with the occasional abnormal ovarian enlargement that may occur with Follistim® therapy, the lowest effective dose should be used (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Use of ultrasound monitoring of ovarian response and/or measurement of serum estradiol levels can further minimize the risk of overstimulation.

If the ovaries are abnormally enlarged on the last day of Follistim® therapy, hCG should not be administered in this course of treatment; this will reduce the chances of developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

The Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): OHSS is a medical entity distinct from uncomplicated ovarian enlargement and may progress rapidly to become a serious medical event. OHSS is characterized by a dramatic increase in vascular permeability, which can result in a rapid accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, thorax, and potentially, the pericardium. The early warning signs of OHSS developing are severe pelvic pain, nausea, vomiting and weight gain. The following symptoms have been reported in cases of OHSS: abdominal pain, abdominal distension, gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, severe ovarian enlargement, weight gain, dyspnea, and oliguria. Clinical evaluation may reveal hypovolemia, hemoconcentration, electrolyte imbalances, ascites, hemoperitoneum, pleural effusions, hydrothorax, acute pulmonary distress, and thromboembolic events (see WARNINGS-Pulmonary and Vascular Complications).

During clinical trials with Follistim® therapy, OHSS occurred in 53 (5.2%) of the 1,029 women treated and of these 29 (2.8%) were hospitalized. Cases of OHSS are more common, more severe, and more protracted if pregnancy occurs; therefore, patients should be followed for at least two weeks after hCG administration. Most often, OHSS occurs after treatment has been discontinued and it can develop rapidly, reaching its maximum about seven to ten days following treatment. Usually, OHSS resolves spontaneously with the onset of menses. If there is evidence that OHSS may be developing prior to hCG administration (see PRECAUTIONS-Laboratory Tests), the hCG must be withheld.

If serious OHSS occurs, treatment should be stopped and the patient should be hospitalized. Treatment is primarily symptomatic and should consist of bed rest, fluid and electrolyte management, and analgesics (if needed). Hemoconcentration associated with fluid loss into the peritoneal cavity, pleural cavity, and the pericardial cavity may occur and should be thoroughly assessed in the following manner: 1) fluid intake and output; 2) weight; 3) hematocrit; 4) serum and urinary electrolytes; 5) urine specific gravity; 6) BUN and creatinine; 7) total proteins with albumin: globulin ratio; 8) coagulation studies; 9) electrocardiogram to monitor for hyperkalemia and 10) abdominal girth. These determinations should be performed daily or more often based on clinical need.

OHSS increases the risk of injury to the ovary. The ascitic, pleural, and pericardial fluid should not be removed unless there is the necessity to relieve symptoms such as pulmonary distress or cardiac tamponade. Pelvic examination may cause rupture of an ovarian cyst, which may result in hemoperitoneum, and should therefore be avoided. If bleeding occurs and requires surgical intervention, the clinical objective should be to control the bleeding and retain as much ovarian tissue as possible. Intercourse should be prohibited in patients with significant ovarian enlargement after ovulation because of the danger of hemoperitoneum resulting from ruptured ovarian cysts.

The management of OHSS may be divided into three phases: an acute, a chronic, and a resolution phase. Because the use of diuretics can accentuate the diminished intravascular volume, diuretics should be avoided except in the late phase of resolution as described below.

Acute Phase: Management during the acute phase should be directed at preventing hemoconcentration due to loss of intravascular volume to the third space and minimizing the risk of thromboembolic phenomena and kidney damage. Treatment is intended to normalize electrolytes while maintaining an acceptable but somewhat reduced intravascular volume. Full correction of the intravascular volume deficit may lead to an unacceptable increase in the amount of third space fluid accumulation.

Management includes administration of limited intravenous fluids, electrolytes, human serum albumin and strict monitoring of fluid intake and output. Monitoring for the development of hyperkalemia is recommended.

Chronic Phase: After stabilizing the patient during the acute phase, excessive fluid accumulation in the third space should be limited by instituting severe potassium, sodium, and fluid restriction.

Resolution Phase: A fall in hematocrit and an increasing urinary output without an increased intake are observed due to the return of the third space fluid to the intravascular compartment. Peripheral and/or pulmonary edema may result if the kidneys are unable to excrete third space fluid as rapidly as it is mobilized. Diuretics may be indicated during the resolution phase, if necessary, to combat pulmonary edema.

Pulmonary and Vascular Complications

Serious pulmonary conditions (e.g., atelectasis, acute respiratory distress syndrome) have been reported in women treated with gonadotropins. In addition, thromboembolic events both in association with, and separate from, the Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome have been reported following gonadotropin therapy. Intravascular thrombosis, which may originate in venous or arterial vessels, can result in reduced blood flow to vital organs or the extremities. Sequelae of such events have included venous thrombophlebitis, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary infarction, cerebral vascular occlusion (stroke), and arterial occlusion resulting in loss of limb. In rare cases, pulmonary complications and/or thromboembolic events have resulted in death.

Multiple Births

Reports of multiple births have been associated with Follistim® treatment. The patient and her partner should be advised of the potential risk of multiple births before starting treatment. In clinical trials with Follistim® and Metrodin®, multiple gestation rates in ART patients were 31% and 38%, respectively, and in ovulation induction patients, the rates were 8% in both groups.



Careful attention should be given to the diagnosis of infertility and in the selection of candidates for Follistim® (follitropin beta for injection) therapy (see INDICATIONS AND USAGE - Selection of Patients).

Information for Patients

Prior to therapy with Follistim®, patients should be informed of the duration of treatment and monitoring procedures that will be required. The risks of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome and multiple births (see WARNINGS), and other possible adverse reactions (see ADVERSE REACTIONS) should be discussed.

Laboratory Tests

In most instances, treatment with Follistim® will result only in follicular growth and maturation. In order to complete the final phase of follicular maturation and to induce ovulation, hCG must be given following the administration of Follistim® or when clinical assessment of the patient indicates that sufficient follicular maturation has occurred. This may be directly estimated by sonographic visualization of the ovaries and endometrial lining and/or measuring serum estradiol levels. The combination of both ultrasonography and measurement of estradiol levels is useful for monitoring the growth and development of follicles, timing hCG administration, as well as minimizing the risk of OHSS and multiple gestations.

The clinical evaluation of estrogenic activity (changes in vaginal cytology, changes in appearance and volume of cervical mucus, spinnbarkeit, and ferning of the cervical mucus) provides an indirect estimate of the estrogenic effect upon the target organs, and therefore it should only be used adjunctively with more direct estimates of follicular development (e.g., ultrasonography and serum estradiol determinations).

The clinical confirmation of ovulation is obtained by direct and indirect indices of progesterone production. The indices most generally used are as follows:

a) A rise in basal body temperature,

b) Increase in serum progesterone, and

c) Menstruation following the shift in basal body temperature.

When used in conjunction with indices of progesterone production, sonographic visualization of the ovaries will assist in determining if ovulation has occurred. Sonographic evidence of ovulation may include the following:

a) Fluid in the cul-de-sac,

b) Follicle showing marked decrease in size, and

c) Collapsed follicle.

Drug Interactions

No drug/drug interaction studies have been performed.

Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis and Impairment of Fertility

Long-term toxicity studies in animals have not been performed with Follistim® to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of the drug. Follistim® was not mutagenic in the Ames test using S. typhimurium and E. coli tester strains and did not produce chromosomal aberrations in an in vitro assay using human lymphocytes.


Pregnancy Category X: (See CONTRAINDICATIONS).

Nursing Mothers

It is not known whether this drug is excreted in human milk. Because many drugs are excreted in human milk and because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in the nursing infant from Follistim®, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Clinical studies of Follistim® did not include subjects aged 65 and over.

Page last updated: 2008-11-19

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