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Lupron Depot® (leuprolide acetate for depot suspension) is a synthetic derivative of the naturally occurring gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). Specifically, it is a nonapeptide analog of this tropic hormone, which makes it more potent than the hormone in its natural state. In therapeutic doses, its mechanism of action is to inhibit gonadotropin secretion. Due to this action, Lupron Depot® is used to suppress the activity of ovarian and testicular androgens, such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Put simply, Lupron Depot® is hormone therapy.
Since Lupron Depot® does not become active when taken orally, there is no pill form of this drug available. Instead, it must be administered by subcutaneous or intramuscular methods, or by injection under the skin or into muscle, respectively. Treatments may be given daily, monthly, or a few times a year, depending on the nature of the condition for which it is being used to treat.
Lupron Depot® is sometimes given as an annual dose delivered via an implanted device called a Viadurtm. This device, which resembles a coffee swizzle with osmotic tablets fastened at one end, is placed under the skin. The tablets are activated by water contained in tissue surrounding the implantation site, and act as balloons to force pressure to push the medication through a hole at the other end of the device as they expand. After one year, the device is removed.
Being a GnRH agonist, Lupron Depot® is often prescribed to treat hormone-related disorders in men, such as advanced prostate cancer. In women, it is used to treat menorrhagia, endometriosis, and fibroids. It is also sometimes given to children to treat central precocious puberty, or early onset of puberty.
Lupron Depot® is also classified as a leutinizing hormone releasing hormone (LHRH) agonist, meaning that it suppresses the release of leutinizing hormones from the pituitary gland. This is important to recognize in order to understand that Lupron Depot® does not act on or cure cancer or any other condition directly. Instead, the drug deters cell growth proliferation in testosterone or estrogen dependent cancer cells by ultimately inhibiting testosterone release from the testicles in men, or estrogen release from the ovaries in women. Sometimes, LHRH agonists are taken in conjunction with anti-androgen medications, such as bicalutamide or flutamide.
There are several side effects associated with taking Lupron Depot®, many of which are predictable. The most common effects experienced are breast pain or swelling, hot flashes, headaches, vaginitis, impotence, and decreased libido. However, some individuals report experiencing less common effects, such as nausea, joint pain, edema, acne flare-ups, and weight gain. Rarely, blood clots may develop, increasing the risk of stroke or congestive heart failure. However, this only occurs in about 1 percent of patients.