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An increased risk of the following serious adverse reactions (see WARNINGS section for additional information) has been associated with the use of oral contraceptives:
Thromboembolic disorders and other vascular problems (including thrombophlebitis, arterial thromboembolism, pulmonary embolism, myocardial infarction, cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral thrombosis), carcinoma of the reproductive organs, hepatic neoplasia (including hepatic adenomas or benign liver tumors), ocular lesions (including retinal vascular thrombosis), gallbladder disease, carbohydrate and lipid effects, elevated blood pressure, and headache.
The following adverse reactions have been reported in patients receiving oral contraceptives and are believed to be drug-related:
Gastrointestinal symptoms (such as abdominal pain, cramps and bloating)
Change in menstrual flow
Temporary infertility after discontinuation of treatment
Melasma/chloasma which may persist
Breast changes: tenderness, pain, enlargement, secretion
Change in weight or appetite (increase or decrease)
Change in cervical erosion and secretion
Diminution in lactation when given immediately postpartum
Mood changes, including depression
Vaginitis, including candidiasis
Change in corneal curvature (steepening)
Intolerance to contact lenses
Decrease in serum folate levels
Exacerbation of systemic lupus erythematosus
Exacerbation of porphyria
Exacerbation of chorea
Aggravation of varicose veins
Anaphylactic/anaphylactoid reactions, including urticaria, angioedema, and severe reactions with respiratory and circulatory symptoms.
The following adverse reactions have been reported in users of oral contraceptives, and the association has been neither confirmed nor refuted:
Optic neuritis, which may lead to partial or complete loss of vision
Loss of scalp hair
Impaired renal function
Hemolytic uremic syndrome
Changes in libido
Cerebral-vascular disease with mitral valve prolapse
Read the Nordette-28 (levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol tablets) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects
Interactions between ethinyl estradiol and other substances may lead to decreased or increased serum ethinyl estradiol concentrations. Decreased ethinyl estradiol plasma concentrations may cause an increased incidence of breakthrough bleeding and menstrual irregularities and may possibly reduce efficacy of the combination oral contraceptive.
Combined hormonal contraceptives have been shown to significantly decrease plasma concentrations of lamotrigine when co-administered, likely due to induction of lamotrigine glucuronidation. This may reduce seizure control; therefore, dosage adjustments of lamotrigine may be necessary.
Consult the labeling of concurrently-used drugs to obtain further information about interactions with hormonal contraceptives or the potential for enzyme alterations.
Reduced ethinyl estradiol concentrations have been associated with concomitant use of substances that induce hepatic microsomal enzymes, such as rifampin, rifabutin, barbiturates, phenylbutazone, phenytoin sodium, griseofulvin, topiramate, some protease inhibitors, modafinil, and possibly St. John's wort.
Substances that may decrease plasma ethinyl estradiol concentrations by other mechanisms include any substance that reduces gut transit time and certain antibiotics (e.g. ampicillin and other penicillins, tetracyclines) by a decrease of enterohepatic circulation of estrogens.
During concomitant use of ethinyl estradiol containing products and substances that may lead to decreased plasma steroid hormone concentrations, it is recommended that a nonhormonal back-up method of birth control be used in addition to the regular intake of Nordette®-28 (levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol tablets). If the use of a substance which leads to decreased ethinyl estradiol plasma concentrations is required for a prolonged period of time, combination oral contraceptives should not be considered the primary contraceptive.
After discontinuation of substances that may lead to decreased ethinyl estradiol plasma concentrations, use of a nonhormonal back-up method of birth control is recommended for 7 days. Longer use of a back-up method is advisable after discontinuation of substances that have led to induction of hepatic microsomal enzymes, resulting in decreased ethinyl estradiol concentrations. It may take several weeks until enzyme induction has completely subsided, depending on dosage, duration of use, and rate of elimination of the inducing substance.
Some substances may increase plasma ethinyl estradiol concentrations. These include:
- Competitive inhibitors for sulfation of ethinyl estradiol in the gastrointestinal wall, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and acetaminophen.
- Substances that inhibit cytochrome P450 3A4 isoenzymes such as indinavir, fluconazole, and troleandomycin. Troleandomycin may increase the risk of intrahepatic cholestasis during co-administration with combination oral contraceptives.
- Atorvastatin (unknown mechanism)
Ethinyl estradiol may interfere with the mechanism of other drugs by inhibiting hepatic microsomal enzymes or by inducing hepatic drug conjugation, particularly glucuronidation. Accordingly, tissue concentrations may be either increased (e.g. cyclosporine, theophylline, corticosteroids) or decreased.
The prescribing information of concomitant medications should be consulted to identify potential interactions.
Interactions with Laboratory Tests
Certain endocrine- and liver-function tests and blood components may be affected by oral contraceptives:
- Increased prothrombin and factors VII, VIII, IX, and X; decreased antithrombin 3; increased norepinephrine-induced platelet aggregability.
- Increased thyroid-binding globulin (TBG) leading to increased circulating total thyroid hormone, as measured by protein-bound iodine (PBI), T4 by column or by radioimmunoassay. Free T3 resin uptake is decreased, reflecting the elevated TBG; free T4 concentration is unaltered.
- Other binding proteins may be elevated in serum.
- Sex-binding globulins are increased and result in elevated levels of total circulating sex steroids and corticoids; however, free or biologically active levels remain unchanged.
- Triglycerides may be increased.
- Glucose tolerance may be decreased.
- Serum folate levels may be depressed by oral contraceptive therapy. This may be of clinical significance if a woman becomes pregnant shortly after discontinuing oral contraceptives.
Last reviewed on RxList: 8/23/2013
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
Additional Nordette-28 Information
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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