The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.

Direct treatment of fibroids attempts either to shrink them or to reduce the bleeding they cause. These drug therapies are used to treat the symptoms without curing the problem.

Prescription Medications

Progestins

Common names include:

Progestins are one of the active ingredients in birth control pills. They reduce menstrual blood flow by altering the hormonal balance of the body in a fashion similar to pregnancy. Norethindrone is given 2.5-10 milligrams per day by mouth for 5-10 days each menstrual cycle.

Megestrol is given 10-20 milligrams per day by mouth for 10-14 days each menstrual cycle.

Medroxyprogesterone is given 5-10 milligrams per day by mouth for 10-14 days each menstrual cycle or 150 mg by injection every three months. The long-acting shots are usually used after a trial of pills, in case the side effects prove uncomfortable.

Possible side effects include:

  • Damage to early pregnancy—Not recommended for the first four months of a pregnancy.
  • Change in menstrual pattern
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Breast enlargement

Raloxifene

Raloxifene is an estrogen-blocking agent. Because fibroids sometimes depend on the presence of estrogen to help grow or maintain themselves, blocking estrogen may stop growth or even shrink fibroid tumors. It has the additional benefit of helping to maintain bone density.

Possible side effects include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Sweating
  • Leg cramps
  • Rarely, blood clots in the legs, lungs, or eyes

Fadrozole

Fadrozole is an aromatase-inhibitor. Aromatase-inhibitors interfere with a crucial step in estrogen’s synthesis in the body, thus decreasing the amount of circulating estrogen. Deprived of estrogen, fibroids often shrink. With long-term use, possible side effects include:

  • Bone loss
  • Acceleration of cardiovascular disease

Danazol

This is a synthetic male hormone. It can suppress growth of fibroids, but has a high incidence of adverse side effects.

Possible side effects include:

  • Damage to early pregnancy
  • Life-threatening blood clots
  • Liver damage
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Hirsutism (abnormal hair growth)
  • Edema
  • Hair loss
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Vaginal dryness

GnRH Agonists

Common names include:

These drugs, which stimulate the production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries via the pituitary when present normally in low and changing amounts, have the opposite effect when given in higher, steady doses thereby largely eliminating the production of estrogen and progesterone. Their primary use is in other conditions, but they have proven effective in reducing the size of fibroids, usually in anticipation of surgery. They are given by injection, subdermal pellet (inserted under the skin), or nasal spray.

Possible side effects include:

  • Rebound fibroid growth within six months
  • Rapid bone loss
  • Multiple pregnancy

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Common names include:

In addition to pain relief, NSAIDs can reduce menstrual flow by what appears to be a separate effect. Their most common side effect is stomach irritation. The newer and more expensive selective NSAIDs (celecoxib) are expected to produce fewer gastrointestinal problems.

Possible side effects include:

  • Stomach irritation, ulceration, and bleeding
  • Allergic reactions
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage

Narcotics and Their Derivatives

Common names include:

There is no substitute for narcotics in the treatment of severe pain. Because they are addictive and can be abused, they are tightly controlled by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Most important side effects include:

  • Death or coma from failure to breathe or circulatory collapse
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Allergic reactions

Over-the-Counter Medications

Pain Relief

Common names include:

There are minor differences among the available pain relief agents in terms of dosing intervals, frequency of certain side effects, and other characteristics.

Possible side effects include:

  • Stomach irritation, ulceration, and bleeding
  • Allergic reactions
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage

Acetaminophen/Paracetamol

Common names include:

This is a common painkiller used for mild to moderate pain. In ordinary doses, acetaminophen is considered very safe. Do not drink alcohol when taking these medications.

Possible side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions may damage blood cells or cause rashes
  • Overdoses can damage the liver

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take them as directed—not more, not less, not at a different time.
  • Do not stop taking them without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t share them with anyone else.
  • Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your doctor.
  • If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a doctor or pharmacist about drug interactions.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.

When to Contact Your Doctor

  • If your symptoms become worse
  • If your medications are causing side effects