A pilot study to assess the effect of three short-term treatments on frequent and/or prolonged bleeding compared to placebo in women using Implanon

E Weisberg, M Hickey, D Palmer, V O'Connor, LA Salamonsen, JK Findlay, Ian S Fraser

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Background: The major side-effect of progestogen-only contraception is disruption of menstrual bleeding patterns, which can lead to a high incidence of early discontinuation. The aim of this study was to compare three treatments with placebo on the duration and recurrence of frequent and/or prolonged bleeding in Implanon users. Method: Women between the ages of 18 and 45 years, who had used Implanon for ≥3 months and were experiencing prolonged or frequent bleeding patterns, were recruited at four Australian sites. Subjects were randomized to treatment using computer-generated random number table if they met the World Health Organization criteria for prolonged and/or frequent bleeding in the previous 90 days [Belsey, E.M., Pinol, A.P.Y. and Taskforce on Long-Acting Systemic Agents for Fertility Regulation, World Health Organization (1997) Contraception 55,57-65]. Treatments were: (1) mifepristone 25 mg given twice on day 1 followed by 4 days of twice daily placebo; (2) mifepristone 25 mg given twice on day 1 followed by 4 days of ethinyl estradiol (EE) 20 μg in the morning and placebo at night; (3) doxycycline 100 mg twice daily for 5 days; and (4) placebo twice daily for 5 days. Analysis was by intention to treat. The primary endpoint was the number of days of bleeding and spotting immediately following initiation of the 5 day course of each active therapy compared with placebo. Results: A total of 179 women was assigned to treatment. Both mifepristone in combination with EE and doxycycline alone were significantly more effective in stopping an episode of bleeding {mean 4.3 days [confidence interval (CI) 3.5-5.2], and 4.8 days (CI 3.9-5.8) respectively} than mifepristone alone or placebo [5.9 days (CI 4.8-7.2) and 7.5 days (CI 6.1-9.1) respectively]. No effect on subsequent bleeding patterns was observed in any treatment group. Conclusion: Both mifepristone plus EE and doxycycline alone were significantly more effective than placebo in terminating an episode of bleeding in women with prolonged and/or frequent bleeding using Implanon. We believe that the observed reduction in the number of bleeding days by almost 50% compared to placebo in both the mifepristone combination group and the doxycycline group demonstrates a clinically significant improvement in bleeding patterns and that further trials are needed to compare different combinations of therapy as well as multiple dosing regimens in order to establish which is the most effective treatment option. The effect of repeat administration or combinations of these preparations on long-term bleeding patterns requires further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-302
Number of pages8
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Bleeding
  • Contraception
  • Doxycycline
  • Implants
  • Mifepristone

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