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Keywords:

  • Anti-tumor necrosis factor inhibitor;
  • infertility;
  • rheumatoid arthritis

Etanercept (Enbrel®; Wyeth-Ayerst/Immunex Inc, Seattle, WA, USA) is a subcutaneously administered novel fusion protein consisting of the extracellular ligand-binding domain of the 75 kD receptor for tumor necrosis factor-alpha (anti-TNFα) and the FC portion of human IgG1. The agent is synthesized by plasmid transfection of a Chinese hamster ovary cell line, utilizing recombinant DNA technology. Etanercept was approved by the US FDA for treatment of multi-drug resistant rheumatoid arthritis in 1998, but no human data exist regarding the impact of anti-TNFα therapy on human reproductive function or its use before ovulation induction. As TNFα potentiates collagenolysis via matrix metalloproteinase gene expression (thereby facilitating ovulation), there exists a theoretical risk that TNFα-inhibition could exert an undesirable effect on ovulation and pregnancy. In this report, we describe the first case of ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination, normal pregnancy and singleton delivery of a healthy infant following chronic (>1 year) pre-ovulatory TNFα-inhibitor therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Reproductive endocrinologists and obstetrician-gynecologists should be familiar with etanercept therapy in the context of severe rheumatic disease, and offer appropriate reassurance regarding its safe use for infertility patients planning ovulation induction.