Low Dose Birth Control Pills
Q: Who manufactures ultra low dose birth control pills? More than one company?
I need specifics and can't find them.
Dr. Donnica: In general, "low dose" birth control pills are
those that have 35 micrograms (mcg) or less of an estrogen (usually ethinyl
estradiol). "Ultra low dose" or "very low dose" pills are
those that have the lowest amount of estrogen in a birth control pill or 20
mcg (0.02 milligrams or mg). The 20 mcg estrogen dose is sufficient for
contraception, but pills with this so-called ultra low estrogen dose of 20 mcg
are associated with more spotting and breakthrough bleeding than pills containing
30 or 35 mcg of estrogen. There are no ultra low dose triphasic pills. There
is also one birth control pill that contains NO estrogen (Micronor contains
0.35 mg norethindrone and is manufactured by Ortho-McNeil). This would be suitable
for nursing mothers or for those who cannot take estrogen because of a contraindication.
Examples of the "ultra low dose" birth control pills on the market
- Alesse (contains 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol and 0.1 mg levonorgestrel; manufactured
- Mircette (contains 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg desogestrel; manufactured
Examples of the "low dose" birth control pills on the market include:
- LoOvral (contains 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol and and 0.3 mg nogestrel;
manufactured by Wyeth)
- Nordette (contains 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg levognorgestrel;
manufactured by Wyeth)
- Ortho-Cept (contains 30 mcg ethinyl estradiol and 0.15 mg desogestrel; manufactured
- Cyclessa is the first triphasic oral contraceptive with an estrogen
dose as low as 25 mcg; the graduated progestin (desogestrel) doses are 0.1,
0.125, and 0.15 mg in weeks 1, 2, and 3, respectively. U.S. clinical trial
results with Cyclessa were published in 2000 (Kaunitz. Contraception.
2000;61:295-302.). In two large studies of identical design, a total of 5,654
sexually active women of child-bearing potential between the ages of 18 and
50 (average age 28.5 years) were randomly assigned to use either the popular
triphasic Ortho-Novum 7/7/7 or Cyclessa for six menstrual cycles. Both pills
proved equally effective at preventing pregnancy, but women who used Cyclessa
had significantly less breakthrough bleeding or spotting--11.0% vs 15.5%.
The Cyclessa group also experienced an average weight loss of
0.2 kg (about -0.4 lbs) compared with an average weight gain in
the Ortho-Novum 7/7/7 group of 0.1 kg (about +0.2 lbs). This difference
was small, but statistically significant.
- Yasmin (manufactured by Berlex) is a relatively new oral contraceptive
containing 30 mcg of estrogen and 3.0 mg of drospirenone, a novel progestin
that is more similar to natural progesterone. Yasmin has been associated with
improved acne and seborrhea (excessively oily skin) as well as an improved
sense of well-being. Yasmin appears to offer better weight control by reducing
water retention. Women with liver, kidney, or adrenal problems should not
take Yasmin because there is a risk of potassium levels becoming dangerously
high. Yasmin also may not be appropriate in the presence of several other
drugs, including certain over-the-counter pain relievers, potassium sparing
diuretics, potassium supplements, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin-II receptor
Click here for more information on contraception.
Created: 8/21/2002  - Donnica Moore, M.D.
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