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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 the endometrial changes that reduce the likelihood of implantation.


Drospirenone is a spironolactone analogue with anti-mineralocorticoid and antiandrogenic activity. The estrogen in Yaz is ethinyl estradiol.


Two studies evaluated the effect of 3 mg DRSP / 0.02 mg EE combinations on the suppression of ovarian activity as assessed by measurement of follicle size via transvaginal ultrasound and serum hormone (progesterone and estradiol) analyses during two treatment cycles (21-day active tablet period plus 7-day pill-free period). More than 90% of subjects in these studies demonstrated ovulation inhibition. One study compared the effect of 3 mg DRSP/0.02 mg EE combinations with two different regimens (24-day active tablet period plus 4-day pill-free period vs. 21-day active tablet period plus 7-day pill-free period) on the suppression of ovarian activity during two treatment cycles. During the first treatment cycle, there were no subjects (0/49, 0%) taking the 24-day regimen who ovulated compared to 1 subject (1/50, 2%) using the 21-day regimen. After intentionally introduced dosing errors (3 missed active tablets on Days 1 to 3) during the second treatment cycle, there was 1 subject (1/49, 2%) taking the 24-day regimen who ovulated compared to 4 subjects (4/50, 8%) using the 21-day regimen.


Acne vulgaris is a skin condition with a multifactorial etiology including androgen stimulation of sebum production. While the combination of EE and DRSP increases sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and decreases free testosterone, the relationship between these changes and a decrease in the severity of facial acne in otherwise healthy women with this skin condition has not been established. The impact of the antiandrogenic activity of DRSP on acne is not known.



The absolute bioavailability of DRSP from a single entity tablet is about 76%. The absolute bioavailability of EE is approximately 40% as a result of presystemic conjugation and first-pass metabolism. The absolute bioavailability of Yaz, which is a combination tablet of DRSP and EE stabilized by betadex as a clathrate (molecular inclusion complex), has not been evaluated. The bioavailability of EE is similar when dosed via a betadex clathrate formulation compared to when it is dosed as a free steroid. Serum concentrations of DRSP and EE reached peak levels within 1–2 hours after administration of Yaz.

The pharmacokinetics of DRSP are dose proportional following single doses ranging from 1–10 mg. Following daily dosing of Yaz, steady state DRSP concentrations were observed after 8 days. There was about 2 to 3 fold accumulation in serum Cmax and AUC (0–24h) values of DRSP following multiple dose administration of Yaz (see Table 2).

For EE, steady-state conditions are reported during the second half of a treatment cycle. Following daily administration of Yaz, serum Cmax and AUC (0–24h) values of EE accumulate by a factor of about 1.5 to 2 (see Table 2).

Table 2: Pharmacokinetic Parameters Of YAZ (DRSP 3 mg and EE 0.02 mg)

Cycle / Day No. of Subjects Cmax a (ng/mL) Tmax b (h) AUC (0–24h)a (ng•h/mL) a (h)
1/1 23 38.4 (25) 1.5 (1-2) 268 (19) N Ac
1/21 23 70.3 (15) 1.5 (1-2) 763 (17) 30.8 (22)
Cycle / Day No. of Subjects Cmax a (ng/mL) Tmax b (h) AUC (0–24h)a (ng•h/mL) a (h)
1/1 23 32.8 (45) 1.5 (1-2) 108 (52) N Ac
1/21 23 45.1 (35) 1.5 (1-2) 220 (57) N Ac
a geometric mean (geometric coefficient of variation)
b median (range)
c NA = Not available

Food Effect

The rate of absorption of DRSP and EE following single administration of a formulation similar to Yaz was slower under fed (high fat meal) conditions with the serum Cmax being reduced about 40% for both components. The extent of absorption of DRSP, however, remained unchanged. In contrast, the extent of absorption of EE was reduced by about 20% under fed conditions.


DRSP and EE serum concentrations decline in two phases. The apparent volume of distribution of DRSP is approximately 4 L/kg and that of EE is reported to be approximately 4-5 L/kg.

DRSP does not bind to SHBG or corticosteroid binding globulin (CBG) but binds about 97% to other serum proteins. Multiple dosing over 3 cycles resulted in no change in the free fraction (as measured at trough concentrations). EE is reported to be highly but non-specifically bound to serum albumin (approximately 98.5 %) and induces an increase in the serum concentrations of both SHBG and CBG. EE induced effects on SHBG and CBG were not affected by variation of the DRSP dosage in the range of 2 to 3 mg.


The two main metabolites of DRSP found in human plasma were identified to be the acid form of DRSP generated by opening of the lactone ring and the 4,5-dihydrodrospirenone-3-sulfate, formed by reduction and subsequent sulfation. These metabolites were shown not to be pharmacologically active. Drospirenone is also subject to oxidative metabolism catalyzed by CYP3A4.

EE has been reported to be subject to significant gut and hepatic first-pass metabolism. Metabolism of EE and its oxidative metabolites occur primarily by conjugation with glucuronide or sulfate. CYP3A4 in the liver is responsible for the 2-hydroxylation which is the major oxidative reaction. The 2-hydroxy metabolite is further transformed by methylation and glucuronidation prior to urinary and fecal excretion.


DRSP serum concentrations are characterized by a terminal disposition phase half-life of approximately 30 hours after both single and multiple dose regimens. Excretion of DRSP was nearly complete after ten days and amounts excreted were slightly higher in feces compared to urine. DRSP was extensively metabolized and only trace amounts of unchanged DRSP were excreted in urine and feces. At least 20 different metabolites were observed in urine and feces. About 38–47% of the metabolites in urine were glucuronide and sulfate conjugates. In feces, about 17–20% of the metabolites were excreted as glucuronides and sulfates.

For EE the terminal disposition phase half-life has been reported to be approximately 24 hours. EE is not excreted unchanged. EE is excreted in the urine and feces as glucuronide and sulfate conjugates and undergoes enterohepatic circulation.

Use In Specific Populations

Pediatric Use: Safety and efficacy of Yaz 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.

Geriatric Use: Yaz has not been studied in postmenopausal women and is not indicated in this population.

Race: No clinically significant difference was observed between the pharmacokinetics of DRSP or EE in Japanese versus Caucasian women (age 25–35) when 3 mg DRSP/0.02 mg EE was administered daily for 21 days. Other ethnic groups have not been specifically studied.

Renal Impairment: Yaz is contraindicated in patients with renal impairment.

The effect of renal impairment on the pharmacokinetics of DRSP (3 mg daily for 14 days) and the effect of DRSP on serum potassium concentrations were investigated in three separate groups of female subjects (n=28, age 30–65). All subjects were on a low potassium diet. During the study, 7 subjects continued the use of potassium-sparing drugs for the treatment of their underlying illness. On the 14th day (steady-state) of DRSP treatment, the serum DRSP concentrations in the group with CLcr of 50–79 mL/min were comparable to those in the control group with CLcr ≥ 80 mL/min. The serum DRSP concentrations were on average 37% higher in the group with CLcr of 30–49 mL/min compared to those in the control group. DRSP treatment did not show any clinically significant effect on serum potassium concentration. Although hyperkalemia was not observed in the study, in five of the seven subjects who continued use of potassium-sparing drugs during the study, mean serum potassium concentrations increased by up to 0.33 mEq/L. [See CONTRAINDICATIONS and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

Hepatic Impairment: Yaz is contraindicated in patients with hepatic disease.

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. Yaz has not been studied in women with severe hepatic impairment. [See CONTRAINDICATIONS and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS]

Drug Interactions

Consult the labeling of all concurrently used drugs to obtain further information about interactions with oral contraceptives or the potential for enzyme alterations.

Effects of Other Drugs on Combined Oral Contraceptives

Substances diminishing the efficacy of COCs: Drugs or herbal products that induce certain enzymes, including CYP3A4, may decrease the effectiveness of COCs or increase breakthrough bleeding.

Substances increasing the plasma concentrations of COCs: Co-administration of atorvastatin and certain COCs containing EE increase AUC values for EE by approximately 20%. Ascorbic acid and acetaminophen may increase plasma EE concentrations, possibly by inhibition of conjugation. In a clinical drug-drug interaction study conducted in 20 premenopausal women, co-administration of a DRSP (3 mg)/EE (0.02 mg) COC with the strong CYP3A4 inhibitor ketoconazole (200 mg twice daily) for 10 days increased the AUC(0-24h) of DRSP and EE by 2.68-fold (90% CI: 2.44, 2.95) and 1.40-fold (90% CI: 1.31, 1.49), respectively. The increases in Cmax were 1.97-fold (90% CI: 1.79, 2.17) and 1.39-fold (90% CI: 1.28, 1.52) for DRSP and EE, respectively. Although no clinically relevant effects on safety or laboratory parameters including serum potassium were observed, this study only assessed subjects for 10 days. The clinical impact for a patient taking a DRSP-containing COC concomitantly with chronic use of a CYP3A4/5 inhibitor is unknown [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

HIV/HCV protease inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors: Significant changes (increase or decrease) in the plasma concentrations of estrogen and progestin have been noted in some cases of co-administration with HIV/HCV protease inhibitors or with non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.

Antibiotics: There have been reports of pregnancy while taking hormonal contraceptives and antibiotics, but clinical pharmacokinetic studies have not shown consistent effects of antibiotics on plasma concentrations of synthetic steroids.

Effects of Combined Oral Contraceptives on Other Drugs

COCs containing EE may inhibit the metabolism of other compounds. COCs have been shown to significantly decrease plasma concentrations of lamotrigine, likely due to induction of lamotrigine glucuronidation. This may reduce seizure control; therefore, dosage adjustments of lamotrigine may be necessary. Consult the labeling of the concurrently-used drug to obtain further information about interactions with COCs or the potential for enzyme alterations.

In vitro, EE is a reversible inhibitor of CYP2C19, CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 as well as a mechanism-based inhibitor of CYP3A4/5, CYP2C8, and CYP2J2. Metabolism of DRSP and potential effects of DRSP on hepatic CYP enzymes have been investigated in in vitro and in vivo studies. In in vitro studies DRSP did not affect turnover of model substrates of CYP1A2 and CYP2D6, but had an inhibitory influence on the turnover of model substrates of CYP1A1, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, and CYP3A4, with CYP2C19 being the most sensitive enzyme. The potential effect of DRSP on CYP2C19 activity was investigated in a clinical pharmacokinetic study using omeprazole as a marker substrate. In the study with 24 postmenopausal women [including 12 women with homozygous (wild type) CYP2C19 genotype and 12 women with heterozygous CYP2C19 genotype] the daily oral administration of 3 mg DRSP for 14 days did not affect the oral clearance of omeprazole (40 mg, single oral dose) and the CYP2C19 product 5-hydroxy omeprazole. Furthermore, no significant effect of DRSP on the systemic clearance of the CYP3A4 product omeprazole sulfone was found. These results demonstrate that DRSP did not inhibit CYP2C19 and CYP3A4 in vivo.

Two additional clinical drug-drug interaction studies using simvastatin and midazolam as marker substrates for CYP3A4 were each performed in 24 healthy postmenopausal women. The results of these studies demonstrated that pharmacokinetics of the CYP3A4 substrates were not influenced by steady state DRSP concentrations achieved after administration of 3 mg DRSP/day.

Women on thyroid hormone replacement therapy may need increased doses of thyroid hormone because serum concentration of thyroid-binding globulin increases with use of COCs.

Interactions With Drugs That Have the Potential to Increase Serum Potassium Concentration: There is a potential for an increase in serum potassium concentration in women taking Yaz with other drugs that may increase serum potassium concentration [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

A drug-drug interaction study of DRSP 3 mg/estradiol (E2) 1 mg versus placebo was performed in 24 mildly hypertensive postmenopausal women taking enalapril maleate 10 mg twice daily. Potassium concentrations were obtained every other day for a total of 2 weeks in all subjects. Mean serum potassium concentrations in the DRSP/E2 treatment group relative to baseline were 0.22 mEq/L higher than those in the placebo group. Serum potassium concentrations also were measured at multiple time points over 24 hours at baseline and on Day 14. On Day 14, the ratios for serum potassium Cmax and AUC in the DRSP/E2 group to those in the placebo group were 0.955 (90% CI: 0.914, 0.999) and 1.010 (90% CI: 0.944, 1.08), respectively. No patient in either treatment group developed hyperkalemia (serum potassium concentrations > 5.5 mEq/L).

Clinical Studies

Oral Contraceptive Clinical Trial

In the primary contraceptive efficacy study of Yaz (3 mg DRSP/0.02 mg EE) of up to 1 year duration, 1,027 subjects were enrolled and completed 11,480 28-day cycles of use. The age range was 17 to 36 years. The racial demographic was: 87.8% Caucasian, 4.6% Hispanic, 4.3% Black, 1.2% Asian, and 2.1% other. Women with a BMI greater than 35 were excluded from the trial. The pregnancy rate (Pearl Index) was 1.41 (95% CI [0.73, 2.47]) per 100 woman-years of use based on 12 pregnancies that occurred after the onset of treatment and within 14 days after the last dose of Yaz in women 35 years of age or younger during cycles in which no other form of contraception was used.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Clinical Trials

Two multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of Yaz in treating the symptoms of PMDD. Women aged 18–42 who met DSM-IV criteria for PMDD, confirmed by prospective daily ratings of their symptoms, were enrolled. Both studies measured the treatment effect of Yaz using the Daily Record of Severity of Problems scale, a patient-rated instrument that assesses the symptoms that constitute the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. The primary study was a parallel group design that included 384 evaluable reproductive-aged women with PMDD who were randomly assigned to receive Yaz or placebo treatment for 3 menstrual cycles. The supportive study, a crossover design, was terminated prematurely prior to achieving recruitment goals due to enrollment difficulties. A total of 64 women of reproductive age with PMDD were treated initially with Yaz or placebo for up to 3 cycles followed by a washout cycle and then crossed over to the alternate medication for 3 cycles.

Efficacy was assessed in both studies by the change from baseline during treatment using a scoring system based on the first 21 items of the Daily Record of Severity of Problems. Each of the 21 items was rated on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 6 (extreme); thus a maximum score of 126 was possible. In both trials, women who received Yaz had statistically significantly greater improvement in their Daily Record of Severity of Problems scores. In the primary study, the average decrease (improvement) from baseline was 37.5 points in women taking Yaz, compared to 30.0 points in women taking placebo.

Acne Clinical Trials

In two multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies, 889 subjects, ages 14 to 45 years, with moderate acne received Yaz or placebo for six 28-day cycles. The primary efficacy endpoints were the percent change in inflammatory lesions, non-inflammatory lesions, total lesions, and the percentage of subjects with a “clear” or “almost clear” rating on the Investigator's Static Global Assessment (ISGA) scale on day 15 of cycle 6, as presented in Table 3:

Table 3: Efficacy Results for Acne Trials*

  Study 1 Study 2
ISGA Success Rate 35 (15%) 10 (4%) 46 (21%) 19 (9%)
Inflammatory Lesions
  Mean Baseline Count 33 33 32 32
  Mean Absolute (%) Reduction 15 (48%) 11 (32%) 16 (51%) 11 (34%)
Non-inflammatory Lesions
  Mean Baseline Count 47 47 44 44
  Mean Absolute (%) Reduction 18 (39%) 10 (18%) 17 (42%) 11 (26%)
Total Lesions
  Mean Baseline Count 80 80 76 76
  Mean Absolute (%) Reduction 33 (42%) 21 (25%) 33 (46%) 22 (31%)
* Evaluated at day 15 of cycle 6, last observation carried forward for the Intent to treat population

Last reviewed on RxList: 6/22/2015
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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