Morning-After Pill Helps Control Uterine Tumors

Emergency contraception shown to limit heavy bleeding from fibroids in uterus

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) An emergency birth control pill taken after intercourse to prevent pregnancy has been found to prevent something else: intense bleeding caused by fibroids.

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that develop in the uterus and can cause heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, pain during sex and pelvic cramps.

"Talk to your OB/GYN about nonsurgical treatments for fibroids."

The morning-after pill ulipristal acetate (marketed in the United States as Ella) did a better job of controlling bleeding caused by fibroids than placebo pills in two controlled trials led by Dr. Jacques Donnez, from the Saint-Luc Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, Belgium.

The first trial included 96 women who took 5 mg daily and 98 women who took 10 mg daily of ulipristal for about 13 weeks. An additional 48 women took the placebo.

At the end of the trial, 91 percent of the women taking 5 mg and 92 percent of the women taking 10 mg had significantly reduced bleeding, compared to only 19 percent of the women in the placebo group.

The most common side effects from ulipristal were headaches and tenderness in the breasts. Doctors also noted changes in the endometrium tissue, which went away within six months after taking the drug.

Two women experienced severe adverse events. One was taking 10 mg and one was in the placebo group.

The second trial included 307 women who took 5 mg or 10 mg of ulipristal or else received an injection of leuprolide acetate once a month.

Leuprolide, marketed as Lupron, is currently prescribed for fibroids but has side effects of lower estrogen levels and related symptoms, such as hot flashes.

Ulipristal and leuprolide were about equally effective or better at controlling bleeding. Of those taking 5gm of ulipristal, 90 percent had their bleeding under control in an average of a week.

Nearly all (98 percent) of the women taking 10mg had controlled symptoms after about five days.

Of the women getting leuprolide injections, 89 percent saw their bleeding slow to a controlled level, but the average time it took was three weeks. These women also reported a 30 percent higher rate of hot flashes than those taking ulipristal.

The study appeared online in February in the New England Journal of Medicine and was funded by PregLem.

Six of the authors, including two PregLem employees, listed funding from various pharmaceutical and medical companies, including PregLem. Two, including Donnez, received payments from PregLem for serving on a scientific advisory board.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 2, 2012
Last Updated:
February 4, 2012