New low-dose, extended-cycle pills with levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol: an evolutionary step in birth control
Harbor-UCLA Hospital, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Aim: To review milestones in development of oral contraceptive pills since their introduction in the US 50 years ago in order to better understand how a new formulation with low-dose estrogen in an extended-cycle pattern fits into the evolution of birth control pills.
Methods: This is a review of trends in the development of various birth controls pills and includes data from phase III clinical trials for this new formulation.
Results: The first birth control pill was a very high-dose monophasic formulation with the prodrug estrogen mestranol and a first-generation progestin. Over the decades, the doses of hormones have been markedly reduced, and a new estrogen and several different progestins were developed and used in different dosing patterns. The final element to undergo change was the 7-day pill-free interval. Many of these same changes have been made in the development of extended-cycle pill formulation.
Conclusion: The newest extended-cycle oral contraceptive formulation with 84 active pills, each containing 20 μg ethinyl estradiol and 100 μg levonorgestrel, represents an important evolution in birth control that incorporates lower doses of estrogen (to reduce side effects and possibly reduce risk of thrombosis), fewer scheduled bleeding episodes (to meet women’s desires for fewer and shorter menses) and the use of low-dose estrogen in place of placebo pills (to reduce the number of days of unscheduled spotting and bleeding). Hopefully, this unique formation will motivate women to be more successful contraceptors.
Keywords: extended-cycle oral contraceptives, low-dose extended-cycle pills, Lo Seasonique
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