Doctors should prescribe the birth- control pills that are the least likely to cause blood clots, according to a study of more than 3,000 women published today in the British Medical Journal.
Oral contraceptives containing levonorgestrel and a low dose of estrogen, such as Bayer AG’s Microgynon 30, were associated with the lowest risk of blood clots in the leg or lungs, researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands found. Birth-control pills containing desogestrel, cyproterone acetate or drospirenone carried about 1.5 to 2 times the risk of clots, they found.
All the pills in the study were equally effective in preventing pregnancy, the researchers said. Doctors sometimes prescribed certain contraceptives for acne, seborrhea or hair growth or to minimize weight gain while on the pill, even though “there is no clear evidence” to support the acne or weight- gain claims, they wrote. The choice should be based on reducing serious side effects such as clots, the researchers said.
“Our results clearly show that the safest option with regards to the risk of venous thrombosis is an oral contraceptive containing levonorgestrel combined with a low dose of estrogen,” the researchers wrote.
The study enrolled 1,524 patients who suffered from thrombosis, or clots, and 1,760 controls and looked at eight types of contraceptive pills on the market. About 57 percent of the control patients and 44 percent of the thrombosis patients took levonorgestrel, while 26 percent of the thrombosis patients were on desogestrel.
Microgynon 30 brought in $168 million for Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer in the first quarter of this year, making it the 11th best-selling birth-control pill in the world, according to IMS Health Inc., a Norwalk, Connecticut-based market research company.
Bayer’s Yasmin, Yaz and Yasminelle contain drospirenone. The three drugs brought in $1.86 billion for Bayer in the first quarter, and Yasmin and Yaz are the two biggest-selling contraceptives worldwide, according to IMS Health.
“We have not seen the data and can’t comment on it at this point in time and soon as we have seen it, we can evaluate it,” Bayer spokeswomen Friederike Lorenzen said in an interview yesterday. “Patient safety is of utmost importance for us.”
Schering-Plough Corp.’s Marvelon and Cerazette pills, which contain desogestrel, generated $319 million for the Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company in the first quarter, IMS Health data show.
Women taking any kind of contraceptive pill have a five- fold increased risk of blood clots than those who don’t use any, the researchers said, confirming earlier studies.
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