BACKGROUND: The effect of recombinant human LH (r-hLH; lutropin alfa) in women undergoing controlled ovarian stimulation with recombinant human FSH (r-hFSH) prior to IVF was investigated. METHODS: After down-regulation with the GnRH agonist, buserelin, 114 normo-ovulatory women (aged 18-37 years) received r-hFSH alone until the lead follicle reached a diameter of 14 mm. Patients were then randomized in a double-blind fashion to receive r-hFSH in addition to r-hLH, 75 IU s.c., or placebo daily for a maximum of 10 days prior to oocyte retrieval and IVF. The primary end-point was the number of metaphase II oocytes. RESULTS: There were no significant differences between treatment groups for the primary end-point. Serum estradiol concentrations on the day of HCG administration were significantly higher in the group receiving r-hLH plus r-hFSH than in the group receiving r-hFSH alone (P = 0.0001), but there were no significant differences between the groups in dose and duration of r-hFSH treatment required, oocyte maturation, fertilization rate, pregnancy rate and live birth rate. CONCLUSION: In this patient population, the addition of r-hLH during the late follicular phase of a long GnRH agonist and r-hFSH stimulation cycle provides no further benefit in terms of oocyte maturation or other end-points.