"April 10, 2012 -- Birth control pills that contain the hormone drospirenone must now carry a warning that they may increase the risk for potentially fatal blood clots, according to the FDA.
Drospirenone is a synthetic version of the f"...
Thromboembolic Disorders and Other Vascular Problems
Stop Safyral if an arterial or venous thrombotic (VTE) event occurs.
Based on presently available information on DRSP-containing COCs with 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol (that is, Yasmin), DRSP-containing COCs may be associated with a higher risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) than COCs containing the progestin levonorgestrel or some other progestins. Epidemiologic studies that compared the risk of VTE reported that the risk ranged from no increase to a three-fold increase. Before initiating use of Safyral in a new COC user or a woman who is switching from a contraceptive that does not contain DRSP, consider the risks and benefits of a DRSP-containing COC in light of her risk of a VTE. Known risk factors for VTE include smoking, obesity, and family history of VTE, in addition to other factors that contraindicate use of COCs [see CONTRAINDICATIONS].
A number of studies have compared the risk of VTE for users of Yasmin (which contains 0.03 mg of EE and 3 mg of DRSP) to the risk for users of other COCs, including COCs containing levonorgestrel. Those that were required or sponsored by regulatory agencies are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1: Estimates (Hazard Ratios) of Venous
Thromboembolism Risk in Current Users ofYasmin Compared to Users of Oral
Contraceptives that Contain Other Progestins
|Epidemiologic Study (Author, Year of Publication) Population Studied||Comparator Product (all are low-dose COCs; with ≤ 0.04 mg of EE)||Hazard Ratio (HR)
|i3 Ingenix (Seeger 2007) Initiators, including new usersa||All COCs available in the US during the conduct of the study b||HR: 0.9
|EURAS (Dinger 2007)||All COCs available in Europe during the conduct of the studyc||HR: 0.9
|Initiators, including new usersa||Levonorgestrel/EE||HR: 1.0
|“FDA-funded study” (2011)|
|New usersa||Other COCs available during the course of the studyd||HR: 1.8
|Levonorgestrel/0.03 mg EE||HR: 1.6
(i.e., initiation and continuing use of study combination hormonal contraception)
|Other COCs available during the course of the studyd||HR: 1.7
|Levonorgestrel/0.03 mg EE||HR: 1.5
|a“New users” - no use of combination hormonal contraception
for at least the prior 6 months
b Includes low-dose COCs containing the following progestins: norgestimate, norethindrone, levonorgestrel, desogestrel, norgestrel, medroxyprogesterone, or ethynodiol diacetate
c Includes low-dose COCs containing the following progestins: levonorgestrel, desogestrel, dienogest, chlormadinone acetate, gestodene, cyproterone acetate, norgestimate, or norethindrone
d Includes low-dose COCs containing the following progestins: norgestimate, norethindrone, or levonorgestrel
In addition to these “regulatory studies,” other studies of various designs have been conducted. Overall, there are two prospective cohort studies (see Table 1): the US post-approval safety study Ingenix [Seeger 2007], the European post-approval safety study EURAS (European Active Surveillance Study) [Dinger 2007]. An extension of the EURAS study, the Long-Term Active Surveillance Study (LASS), did not enroll additional subjects, but continued to assess VTE risk. There are three retrospective cohort studies: one study in the US funded by the FDA (see Table 1), and two from Denmark [Lidegaard 2009, Lidegaard 2011]. There are two case-control studies: the Dutch MEGA study analysis [van Hylckama Vlieg 2009] and the German case-control study [Dinger 2010]. There are two nested case-control studies that evaluated the risk of non-fatal idiopathic VTE: the PharMetrics study [Jick 2011] and the GPRD study [Parkin 2011]. The results of all of these studies are presented in Figure 1.
Figure 1: VTE Risk with Yasmin Relative to LNG-Containing
COCs (adjusted risk#)
Risk ratios displayed on logarithmic scale; risk ratio < 1 indicates a lower risk of VTE for DRSP, > 1 indicates an increased risk of VTE for DRSP.
*Comparator “Other COCs”,
including LNG- containing COCs
† LASS is an extension of the EURAS study
#Some adjustment factors are indicated by superscript letters: a) Current heavy smoking, b) hypertension, c) obesity, d) family history, e) age, f) BMI, g) duration of use, h) VTE history, i) period of inclusion, j) calendar year, k) education, l) length of use, m) parity, n) chronic disease, o) concomitant medication, p) smoking, q) duration of exposure, r) site
(References: Ingenix [Seeger 2007]2, EURAS (European Active Surveillance Study) [Dinger 2007]3, LASS (Long-Term Active Surveillance Study) [Dinger, unpublished document on file], FDA-funded study [Sidney 2011]4, Danish [Lidegaard 2009]5, Danish reanalysis [ Lidegaard 2011]6, MEGA study [van Hylckama Vlieg 2009]7, German Case-Control study [Dinger 2010]8, PharMetrics [Jick 2011]9, GPRD study [Parkin 2011]10)
Although the absolute VTE rates are increased for users of hormonal contraceptives compared to non-users, the rates during pregnancy are even greater, especially during the post-partum period (see Figure 2). The risk of VTE in women using COCs has been estimated to be 3 to 9 per 10,000 woman-years. The risk of VTE is highest during the first year of use. Data from a large, prospective cohort safety study of various COCs suggest that this increased risk, as compared to that in non-COC users, is greatest during the first 6 months of COC use. Data from this safety study indicate that the greatest risk of VTE is present after initially starting a COC or restarting (following a 4 week or greater pill-free interval) the same or a different COC.
The risk of thromboembolic disease due to oral contraceptives gradually disappears after COC use is discontinued.
Figure 2 shows the risk of developing a VTE for women who are not pregnant and do not use oral contraceptives, for women who use oral contraceptives, for pregnant women, and for women in the postpartum period. To put the risk of developing a VTE into perspective: If 10,000 women who are not pregnant and do not use oral contraceptives are followed for one year, between 1 and 5 of these women will develop a VTE.
Figure 2: Likelihood of Developing a VTE
If feasible, stop Safyral at least 4 weeks before and through 2 weeks after major surgery or other surgeries known to have an elevated risk of thromboembolism.
Start Safyral no earlier than 4 weeks after delivery, in women who are not breastfeeding. The risk of postpartum thromboembolism decreases after the third postpartum week, whereas the risk of ovulation increases after the third postpartum week.
Use of COCs also increases the risk of arterial thromboses such as strokes and myocardial infarctions, especially in women with other risk factors for these events.
COCs have been shown to increase both the relative and attributable risks of cerebrovascular events (thrombotic and hemorrhagic strokes), although, in general, the risk is greatest among older (>35 years of age), hypertensive women who also smoke. COCs also increase the risk for stroke in women with other underlying risk factors.
Oral contraceptives must be used with caution in women with cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Safyral contains 3 mg of the progestin DRSP, which has antimineralocorticoid activity, including the potential for hyperkalemia in high-risk patients, comparable to a 25 mg dose of spironolactone. Safyral should not be used in patients with conditions that predispose to hyperkalemia (that is, renal impairment, hepatic impairment, and adrenal insufficiency). Women receiving daily, long-term treatment for chronic conditions or diseases with medications that may increase serum potassium concentration should have their serum potassium concentration checked during the first treatment cycle. Medications that may increase serum potassium concentration include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin–II receptor antagonists, potassium-sparing diuretics, potassium supplementation, heparin, aldosterone antagonists, and NSAIDs.
Carcinoma of the Breasts and Reproductive Organs
Women who currently have or have had breast cancer should not use Safyral because breast cancer is a hormonallysensitive tumor.
There is substantial evidence that COCs do not increase the incidence of breast cancer. Although some past studies have suggested that COCs might increase the incidence of breast cancer, more recent studies have not confirmed such findings.
Some studies suggest that COCs are associated with an increase in the risk of cervical cancer or intraepithelial neoplasia. However, there is controversy about the extent to which these findings may be due to differences in sexual behavior and other factors.
Discontinue Safyral if jaundice develops. Steroid hormones may be poorly metabolized in patients with impaired liver function. Acute or chronic disturbances of liver function may necessitate the discontinuation of COC use until markers of liver function return to normal and COC causation has been excluded.
Hepatic adenomas are associated with COC use. An estimate of the attributable risk is 3.3 cases/100,000 COC users. Rupture of hepatic adenomas may cause death through intra-abdominal hemorrhage.
Studies have shown an increased risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma in long-term (> 8 years) COC users. However, the attributable risk of liver cancers in COC users is less than one case per million users.
Oral contraceptive-related cholestasis may occur in women with a history of pregnancy-related cholestasis. Women with a history of COC-related cholestasis may have the condition recur with subsequent COC use.
High Blood Pressure
For women with well-controlled hypertension, monitor blood pressure and stop Safyral if blood pressure rises significantly. Women with uncontrolled hypertension or hypertension with vascular disease should not use COCs.
An increase in blood pressure has been reported in women taking COCs, and this increase is more likely in older women and with extended duration of use. The incidence of hypertension increases with increasing concentration of progestin.
Studies suggest a small increased relative risk of developing gallbladder disease among COC users.
Carbohydrate and Lipid Metabolic Effects
Carefully monitor prediabetic and diabetic women who are taking Safyral. COCs may decrease glucose tolerance in a dose-related fashion.
Consider alternative contraception for women with uncontrolled dyslipidemia. A small proportion of women will have adverse lipid changes while on COCs.
Women with hypertriglyceridemia, or a family history thereof, may be at an increased risk of pancreatitis when using COCs.
If a woman taking Safyral develops new headaches that are recurrent, persistent, or severe, evaluate the cause and discontinue Safyral if indicated.
An increase in frequency or severity of migraine during COC use (which may be prodromal of a cerebrovascular event) may be a reason for immediate discontinuation of the COC.
Unscheduled (breakthrough or intracyclic) bleeding and spotting sometimes occur in patients on COCs, especially during the first three months of use. If bleeding persists or occurs after previously regular cycles, check for causes such as pregnancy or malignancy. If pathology and pregnancy are excluded, bleeding irregularities may resolve over time or with a change to a different COC.
Data from ten Yasmin contraceptive efficacy clinical trials (N=2,467) show that the percent of women who took Yasmin and experienced unscheduled bleeding decreased over time from 12% at cycle 2 to 6% (cycle 13). A total of 25 subjects out of 3,009 in the Yasmin and Safyral trials (<1%) discontinued due to bleeding complaints. These are described as metrorrhagia, vaginal hemorrhage, menorrhagia, abnormal withdrawal bleeding, and menometrorrhagia.
The average duration of scheduled bleeding episodes in the majority of subjects (86%-88%) was 4-7 days. Women who use Safyral may experience absence of withdrawal bleeding, even if they are not pregnant. Based on subject diaries from Yasmin contraceptive efficacy trials, during cycles 2 –13, 1 - 11% of women per cycle experienced no withdrawal bleeding. Some women may encounter post-pill amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea, especially when such a condition was pre-existent.
If withdrawal bleeding does not occur, consider the possibility of pregnancy. If the patient has not adhered to the prescribed dosing schedule (missed one or more active tablets or started taking them on a day later than she should have), consider the possibility of pregnancy at the time of the first missed period and take appropriate diagnostic measures. If the patient has adhered to the prescribed regimen and misses two consecutive periods, rule out pregnancy.
COC Use Before or During Early Pregnancy
Extensive epidemiological studies have revealed no increased risk of birth defects in women who have used oral contraceptives prior to pregnancy. Studies also do not suggest a teratogenic effect when COCs are taken inadvertently during early pregnancy, particularly in so far as cardiac anomalies and limb-reduction defects are concerned. Discontinue Safyral if pregnancy is confirmed and initiate a prenatal vitamin containing folate supplementation.
The administration of oral contraceptives to induce withdrawal bleeding should not be used as a test for pregnancy [see Use in Specific Populations].
Women with a history of depression should be carefully observed and Safyral discontinued if depression recurs to a serious degree.
Interference with Laboratory Tests
The use of COCs may change the results of some laboratory tests, such as coagulation factors, lipids, glucose tolerance, and binding proteins. Women on thyroid hormone replacement therapy may need increased doses of thyroid hormone because serum concentrations of thyroid-binding globulin increase with use of COCs [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].
DRSP causes an increase in plasma renin activity and plasma aldosterone induced by its mild antimineralocorticoid activity.
Folates may mask vitamin B12 deficiency.
A woman who is taking COCs should have a yearly visit with her healthcare provider for a blood pressure check and for other indicated healthcare.
In women with hereditary angioedema, exogenous estrogens may induce or exacerbate symptoms of angioedema. Chloasma may occasionally occur, especially in women with a history of chloasma gravidarum. Women with a tendency to chloasma should avoid exposure to the sun or ultraviolet radiation while taking COCs.
Patient Counseling Information
See “FDA-approved patient labeling (PATIENT INFORMATION).”
- Counsel patients that cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular events from COC use, and that women who are over 35 years old and smoke should not use COCs.
- Counsel patients that the increased risk of VTE compared to non-users of COCs is greatest after initially starting a COC or restarting (following a 4-week or greater pill-free interval) the same or a different COC.
- Counsel patients about the information regarding the risk of VTE with DRSP-containing COCs compared to COCs that contain levonorgestrel or some other progestins.
- Counsel patients that Safyral does not protect against HIV-infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Counsel patients on WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS associated with COCs.
- Counsel patients that Safyral contains DRSP. Drospirenone may increase potassium. Patients should be advised to inform their healthcare provider if they have kidney, liver or adrenal disease because the use of Safyral in the presence of these conditions could cause serious heart and health problems. They should also inform their healthcare provider if they are currently on daily, long-term treatment (NSAIDs, potassium-sparing diuretics, potassium supplementation, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-II receptor antagonists, heparin or aldosterone antagonists) for a chronic condition.
- Inform patients that Safyral is not indicated during pregnancy. If pregnancy occurs during treatment with Safyral, instruct the patient to stop further intake. However, women should be advised on the continued need of sufficient folate intake.
- Counsel patients to take one tablet daily by mouth at the same time every day. Instruct patients what to do in the event pills are missed. See “What to Do if You Miss Pills” section in FDA-Approved Patient Labeling.
- Counsel patients to use a back-up or alternative method of contraception when enzyme inducers are used with COCs.
- Counsel patients who are breastfeeding or who desire to breastfeed that COCs may reduce breast milk production. This is less likely to occur if breastfeeding is well established.
- Counsel any patient who starts COCs postpartum, and who has not yet had a period, to use an additional method of contraception until she has taken a orange tablet for 7 consecutive days.
- Counsel patients that amenorrhea may occur. Rule out pregnancy in the event of amenorrhea in two or more consecutive cycles.
- Counsel patients to report whether they are taking folate supplements. Safyral contains the equivalent of 0.4 mg (400 mcg) of folic acid.
- Counsel patients to maintain folate supplementation if they discontinue Safyral due to pregnancy.
Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility
In a 24 month oral carcinogenicity study in mice dosed with 10 mg/kg/day DRSP alone or 1 + 0.01, 3 + 0.03 and 10 + 0.1 mg/kg/day of DRSP and EE, 0.1 to 2 times the exposure (AUC of DRSP) of women taking a contraceptive dose, there was an increase in carcinomas of the harderian gland in the group that received the high dose of DRSP alone. In a similar study in rats given 10 mg/kg/day DRSP alone or 0.3 + 0.003, 3 + 0.03 and 10 + 0.1 mg/kg/day DRSP and EE, 0.8 to 10 times the exposure of women taking a contraceptive dose, there was an increased incidence of benign and total (benign and malignant) adrenal gland pheochromocytomas in the group receiving the high dose of DRSP. Mutagenesis studies for DRSP were conducted in vivo and in vitro and no evidence of mutagenic activity was observed.
Long-term animal studies have not been conducted to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of levomefolate. Mutagenesis studies for levomefolate were conducted in vitro and in vivo and no evidence of mutagenic activity was observed.
Use In Specific Populations
There is little or no increased risk of birth defects in women who inadvertently use COCs during early pregnancy. Epidemiologic studies and meta-analyses have not found an increased risk of genital or non-genital birth defects (including cardiac anomalies and limb-reduction defects) following exposure to low dose COCs prior to conception or during early pregnancy.
The administration of COCs to induce withdrawal bleeding should not be used as a test for pregnancy. COCs should not
be used during pregnancy to treat threatened or habitual abortion. Women who do not breastfeed may start COCs no earlier than four weeks postpartum.
When possible, advise the nursing mother to use other forms of contraception until she has weaned her child. Estrogen-containing COCs can reduce milk production in breastfeeding mothers. This is less likely to occur once breastfeeding is well-established; however, it can occur at any time in some women. Small amounts of oral contraceptive steroids and/or metabolites are present in breast milk.
After oral administration of 3 mg DRSP/0.03 mg EE tablets (Yasmin), about 0.02% of the DRSP dose was excreted into the breast milk of postpartum women within 24 hours. This results in a maximal daily dose of about 0.003 mg DRSP in an infant.
Studies to date indicate there is no adverse effect of folate on nursing infants.
Safety and efficacy of Safyral has been established in women of reproductive age. Efficacy is expected to be the same for postpubertal adolescents under the age of 18 and for users 18 years and older. Use of this product before menarche is not indicated.
Safyral has not been studied in postmenopausal women and is not indicated in this population.
Patients with Renal Impairment
Safyral is contraindicated in patients with renal impairment [see CONTRAINDICATIONS and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].
In subjects with creatinine clearance (CLcr) of 50–79 mL/min, serum DRSP concentrations were comparable to those in a control group with CLcr ≥ 80 mL/min. In subjects with CLcr of 30–49 mL/min, serum DRSP concentrations were on average 37% higher than those in the control group. In addition, there is a potential to develop hyperkalemia in subjects with renal impairment whose serum potassium is in the upper reference range, and who are concomitantly using potassium-sparing drugs [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].
Patients with Hepatic Impairment
Safyral is contraindicated in patients with hepatic disease [see CONTRAINDICATIONS and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]. The mean exposure to DRSP in women with moderate liver impairment is approximately three times higher than the exposure in women with normal liver function. Safyral has not been studied in women with severe hepatic impairment.
No clinically significant difference was observed between the pharmacokinetics of DRSP or EE in Japanese versus Caucasian women [see CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY].
2. Seeger, J.D., Loughlin, J., Eng, P.M., Clifford, C.R., Cutone, J., and Walker, A.M. (2007). Risk of thromboembolism in women taking ethinylestradiol/drospirenone and other oral contraceptives. Obstet Gynecol 110, 587-593.
3. Dinger, J.C., Heinemann, L.A., and Kuhl-Habich, D. (2007). The safety of a drospirenone-containing oral contraceptive: final results from the European Active Surveillance Study on oral contraceptives based on 142,475 women-years of observation. Contraception 75, 344-354.
4. Combined hormonal contraceptives (CHCs) and the risk of cardiovascular endpoints. Sidney, S. (primary author) http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/UCM277384.pdf, accessed Oct 27, 2011.
5. Lidegaard, O., Lokkegaard, E., Svendsen, A.L., and Agger, C. (2009). Hormonal contraception and risk of venous thromboembolism: national follow-up study. BMJ 339, b2890.
6. Lidegaard, O., Nielsen, L.H., Skovlund, C.W., Skjeldestad, F.E., and Lokkegaard, E. (2011). Risk of venous thromboembolism from use of oral contraceptives containing different progestogens and oestrogen doses: Danish cohort study, 2001-9. BMJ 343, d6423.
7. van Hylckama Vlieg, A., Helmerhorst, F.M., Vandenbroucke, J.P., Doggen, C.J., and Rosendaal, F.R. (2009). The venous thrombotic risk of oral contraceptives, effects of oestrogen dose and progestogen type: results of the MEGA case-control study. BMJ 339, b2921.
8. Dinger, J., Assmann, A., Mohner, S., and Minh, T.D. (2010). Risk of venous thromboembolism and the use of dienogest- and drospirenone-containing oral contraceptives: results from a German case-control study. J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care 36, 123-129.
9. Jick, S.S., and Hernandez, R.K. (2011). Risk of non-fatal venous thromboembolism in women using oral contraceptives containing drospirenone compared with women using oral contraceptives containing levonorgestrel: case-control study using United States claims data. BMJ 342, d2151.
10. Parkin, L., Sharples, K., Hernandez, R.K., and Jick, S.S. (2011). Risk of venous thromboembolism in users of oral contraceptives containing drospirenone or levonorgestrel: nested case-control study based on UK General Practice Research Database. BMJ 342, d2139.
Last reviewed on RxList: 4/20/2012
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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