August 30, 2016
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"Oct. 18, 2012 -- While the use of long-acting intrauterine devices (IUDs) is increasing, 1 in 9 women at risk for unintended pregnancies is not using any birth control, according to a new government report.

Researchers from the Natio"...




Mechanism Of Action

The local mechanism by which continuously released LNG enhances contraceptive effectiveness of Mirena has not been conclusively demonstrated. Studies of Mirena and similar LNG IUS prototypes have suggested several mechanisms that prevent pregnancy: thickening of cervical mucus preventing passage of sperm into the uterus, inhibition of sperm capacitation or survival, and alteration of the endometrium.


Mirena has mainly local progestogenic effects in the uterine cavity. The high local levels of LNG2 lead to morphological changes including stromal pseudodecidualization, glandular atrophy, a leukocytic infiltration and a decrease in glandular and stromal mitoses.

Ovulation is inhibited in some women using Mirena. In a 1-year study, approximately 45% of menstrual cycles were ovulatory, and in another study after 4 years, 75% of cycles were ovulatory.



Low doses of LNG are administered into the uterine cavity with the Mirena intrauterine delivery system. The initial release rate is approximately 20 mcg/day over the first 3 months tested (day 0 to day 90). It is reduced to approximately 18 mcg/day after 1 year and then decreases progressively to approximately 10 mcg/day after 5 years.

A stable serum concentration, without peaks and troughs, of LNG of 150–200 pg/mL occurs after the first few weeks following insertion of Mirena. LNG concentrations after long-term use of 12, 24, and 60 months were 180±66 pg/mL, 192±140 pg/mL, and 159±59 pg/mL, respectively.


The apparent volume of distribution of LNG is reported to be approximately 1.8 L/kg. It is about 97.5 to 99% protein-bound, principally to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and, to a lesser extent, serum albumin.


Following absorption, LNG is conjugated at the 17β-OH position to form sulfate conjugates and, to a lesser extent, glucuronide conjugates in serum. Significant amounts of conjugated and unconjugated 3α, 5β- tetrahydrolevonorgestrel are also present in serum, along with much smaller amounts of 3α, 5α-tetrahydrolevonorgestrel and 16β-hydroxylevonorgestrel. LNG and its phase I metabolites are excreted primarily as glucuronide conjugates. Metabolic clearance rates may differ among individuals by several-fold, and this may account in part for wide individual variations in LNG concentrations seen in individuals using LNG–containing contraceptive products. In vitro studies have demonstrated that oxidative metabolism of LNG is catalyzed by CYP enzymes, especially CYP3A4.


About 45% of LNG and its metabolites are excreted in the urine and about 32% are excreted in feces, mostly as glucuronide conjugates. The elimination half-life of LNG after daily oral doses is approximately 17 hours.

Specific Populations

Pediatric: Safety and efficacy of Mirena have been established in women of reproductive age. Use of this product before menarche is not indicated.

Geriatric: Mirena has not been studied in women over age 65 and is not currently approved for use in this population.

Race: No studies have evaluated the effect of race on pharmacokinetics of Mirena.

Hepatic Impairment: No studies were conducted to evaluate the effect of hepatic disease on the disposition of Mirena.

Renal Impairment: No formal studies were conducted to evaluate the effect of renal disease on the disposition of Mirena.

Drug-Drug Interactions

No drug-drug interaction studies were conducted with Mirena [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].

Clinical Studies

Clinical Trials On Contraception

Mirena has been studied for safety and efficacy in two large clinical trials in Finland and Sweden. In study sites having verifiable data and informed consent, 1,169 women 18 to 35 years of age at enrollment used Mirena for up to 5 years, for a total of 45,000 women-months of exposure. Subjects had previously been pregnant, had no history of ectopic pregnancy, had no history of pelvic inflammatory disease over the preceding 12 months, were predominantly Caucasian, and over 70% of the participants had previously used IUDs (intrauterine devices). The reported 12-month pregnancy rates were less than or equal to 0.2 per 100 women (0.2%) and the cumulative 5-year pregnancy rate was approximately 0.7 per 100 women (0.7%).

About 80% of women wishing to become pregnant conceived within 12 months after removal of Mirena.

Clinical Trial On Heavy Menstrual Bleeding

The efficacy of Mirena in the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding was studied in a randomized, open-label, active-control, parallel-group trial comparing Mirena (n=79) to an approved therapy, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) (n=81), over 6 cycles. The subjects included reproductive-aged women in good health, with no contraindications to the drug products and with confirmed heavy menstrual bleeding ( ≥ 80 mL menstrual blood loss [MBL]) determined using the alkaline hematin method. Excluded were women with organic or systemic conditions that may cause heavy uterine bleeding (except small fibroids, with total volume not > 5 mL). Treatment with Mirena showed a statistically significantly greater reduction in MBL (see Figure 12) and a statistically significantly greater number of subjects with successful treatment (see Figure 13). Successful treatment was defined as proportion of subjects with (1) end-of-study MBL < 80 mL and (2) a ≥ 50% decrease in MBL from baseline to end-of-study.

Figure 12: Median Menstrual Blood Loss (MBL) by Time and Treatment

Median Menstrual Blood Loss (MBL) by Time and Treatment - Illustration

Figure 13: Proportion of Subjects with Successful Treatment

Proportion of Subjects with Successful Treatment - Illustration


2Nilsson CG, Haukkamaa M, Vierola H, Luukkainen T. Tissue concentrations of LNG in women using a LNG-releasing IUD. Clinical Endocrinol 1982;17:529-536.

Last reviewed on RxList: 11/6/2015
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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