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Contraception. 2001 Jan;63(1):1-11.

Comparison of the lipoprotein, carbohydrate, and hemostatic effects of phasic oral contraceptives containing desogestrel or levonorgestrel.

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  • 1Northwest Lipid Research Clinic in the Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.


Desogestrel (DSG) is a less-androgenic progestogen than levonorgestrel (LNG). This difference in androgenicity may be responsible for observed differences in metabolic effects between oral contraceptive (OC) formulations containing almost equivalent estrogen doses but with either DSG or LNG as a progestogen. To test the hypothesis, a prospective 9-month randomized comparison of plasma lipids, glucose, insulin, hemostasis, and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) was conducted in 66 healthy women using phasic formulations of OCs containing either DSG (DSG-OC) or LNG (LNG-OC). The study results showed that SHBG increased 3-fold with DSG-OC and 2-fold with LNG-OC. DSG-OC increased HDL-C, HDL(2)-C and HDL(3)-C; LDL-C decreased transiently. LNG-OC decreased HDL(2)-C and increased HDL(3)-C; HDL-C was unchanged and LDL-C decreased transiently. Both formulations increased VLDL-C and triglycerides, more with DSG-OC, but apolipoprotein B levels increased equally. Apo A-I and A-II increased more with DSG-OC than with LNG-OC. Neither formulation altered Lp(a) or fasting glucose and insulin levels. Postprandially, both formulations decreased glucose and increased insulin responses, but to an equivalent degree. Both OCs slightly enhanced procoagulant and profibrinolytic parameters to the same extent except for internally compensating decreases in Factor V and protein S with DSG-OC. In summary, at almost equivalent estrogen doses, a phasic OC containing DSG compared with LNG has a less androgenic effect on lipoproteins and SHBG, similar effects on hemostatic parameters with lower protein S and factor V activity and equivalent effects on carbohydrate metabolism. The lipoprotein, SHBG, and protein S and factor V differences are likely due to the lesser androgenicity of DSG allowing for a greater expression of the dose of estrogen.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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