"What are birth control pills and how do they work?
Birth control pills are also known as oral contraceptives (OCs) or, simply, “the pill.” They offer protection against pregnancy by blocking the union of sperm and egg, thereby prevent"...
Mechanism of action
COCs lower the risk of becoming pregnant primarily by suppressing ovulation. Other possible mechanisms may include cervical mucus changes that inhibit sperm penetration and endometrial changes that reduce the likelihood of implantation.
Ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel are absorbed with maximum plasma concentrations occurring within 2 hours after Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) administration. Levonorgestrel is completely absorbed after oral administration (bioavailability nearly 100%) and is not subject to first-pass metabolism. Ethinyl estradiol is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract but, due to first-pass metabolism in gut mucosa and liver, the bioavailability of ethinyl estradiol is approximately 43%.
The daily exposure to levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol on Day 21, corresponding to the end of a typical 3-week contraceptive regimen, and on Day 84, at the end of an extended cycle regimen, were similar. There was no additional accumulation of ethinyl estradiol after dosing a 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol tablet during Days 84-91. The mean plasma pharmacokinetic parameters of Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) following a single dose of one levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol combination tablet, for 84 days, in normal healthy women are reported in Table 3.
Table 3: Mean Pharmacokinetic Parameters for Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) during Daily One Tablet Dosing for 84 Days
| AUC0-24 hr
(mean ± SD)
(mean ± SD)
(mean ± SD)
|Day 1||18.2 ± 6.1 ng•hr/mL||3.0 ± 1.0 ng/mL||1.3 ± 0.4 hours|
|Day 21||64.4 ± 25.1 ng•hr/mL||6.2 ± 1.6 ng/mL||1.3 ± 0.4 hours|
|Day 84||60.2 ± 24.6 ng•hr/mL||5.5 ± 1.6 ng/mL||1.3 ± 0.3 hours|
|Day 1||509.3 ± 172.0 pg•hr/mL||69.8 ± 26 pg/mL||1.5 ± 0.3 hours|
|Day 21||837.1 ± 271.2 pg•hr/mL||99.6 ± 31 pg/mL||1.5 ± 0.3 hours|
|Day 84||791.5 ± 215.0 pg•hr/mL||91.3 ± 32 pg/mL||1.6 ± 0.3 hours|
The effect of food on the rate and the extent of levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol absorption following oral administration of Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) has not been evaluated.
The apparent volume of distribution of levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol are reported to be approximately 1.8 L/kg and 4.3 L/kg, respectively. Levonorgestrel is about 97.5 - 99% protein-bound, principally to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and, to a lesser extent, serum albumin. Ethinyl estradiol is about 95 - 97% bound to serum albumin. Ethinyl estradiol does not bind to SHBG, but induces SHBG synthesis, which leads to decreased levonorgestrel clearance. Following repeated daily dosing of levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol oral contraceptives, levonorgestrel plasma concentrations accumulate more than predicted based on single-dose pharmacokinetics, due in part, to increased SHBG levels that are induced by ethinyl estradiol, and a possible reduction in hepatic metabolic capacity.
Following absorption, levonorgestrel is conjugated at the 17p-OH position to form sulfate and to a lesser extent, glucuronide conjugates in plasma. Significant amounts of conjugated and unconjugated 3a,5p-tetrahydrolevonorgestrel are also present in plasma, along with much smaller amounts of 3a,5a-tetrahydrolevonorgestrel and 16p-hydroxylevonorgestrel. Levonorgestrel 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 the wide variation observed in levonorgestrel concentrations among users.
First-pass metabolism of ethinyl estradiol involves formation of ethinyl estradiol-3-sulfate in the gut wall, followed by 2-hydroxylation of a portion of the remaining untransformed ethinyl estradiol by hepatic cytochrome P-450 3A4 (CYP3A4). Levels of CYP3A4 vary widely among individuals and can explain the variation in rates of ethinyl estradiol hydroxylation. Hydroxylation at the 4-, 6-, and 16- positions may also occur, although to a much lesser extent than 2-hydroxylation. The various hydroxylated metabolites are subject to further methylation and/or conjugation.
About 45% of levonorgestrel and its metabolites are excreted in the urine and about 32% are excreted in feces, mostly as glucuronide conjugates. The terminal elimination half-life for levonorgestrel after a single dose of Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) was about 34 hours.
Ethinyl estradiol is excreted in the urine and feces as glucuronide and sulfate conjugates, and it undergoes enterohepatic recirculation. The terminal elimination half-life of ethinyl estradiol after a single dose of Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) was found to be about 18 hours.
The effect of race on the pharmacokinetics of Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) has not been evaluated.
In a 12-month, multicenter, randomized, open-label clinical trial, 1,006 women aged 18-40 were studied to assess the safety and efficacy of Seasonique (levonorgestrel, ethinyl estradiol) , completing the equivalent of 8,681 28-day cycles of exposure. The racial demographic of those enrolled was: Caucasian (80%), African-American (11%), Hispanic (5%), Asian (2%), and Other (2%). There were no exclusions for body mass index (BMI) or weight. The weight range of those women treated was 91 to 360 lbs., with a mean weight of 156 lbs. Among the women in the trial, 63% were current or recent hormonal contraceptive users, 26% were prior users (who had used hormonal contraceptives in the past but not in the 6 months prior to enrollment), and 11% were new starts. Of treated women, 14.8% were lost to follow-up, 16.3% discontinued due to an adverse event, and 12.9% discontinued by withdrawing their consent.
The pregnancy rate (Pearl Index [PI]) in women aged 18-35 years was 1.34 pregnancies per 100 women-years of use (95% confidence interval 0.54-2.75), based on 7 pregnancies that occurred after the onset of treatment and within 14 days after the last combination pill. Cycles in which conception did not occur, but which included the use of backup contraception, were not included in the calculation of the PI. The PI includes patients who did not take the drug correctly.
Patient Counseling Information
See FDA- Approved Patient Labeling
- 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 this product does not protect against HIV-infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Counsel patients on WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS associated with COCs.
- 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 of 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 light blue-green tablet for 7 consecutive days.
- Counsel patients that amenorrhea may occur. Pregnancy should be considered in the event of amenorrhea, and should be ruled out if amenorrhea is associated with symptoms of pregnancy, such as morning sickness or unusual breast tenderness.
Last reviewed on RxList: 8/30/2010
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
Additional Seasonique Information
Seasonique - User Reviews
Seasonique User Reviews
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