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Contraception. 1999 Feb;59(2):71-8.

Interaction between broad-spectrum antibiotics and the combined oral contraceptive pill. A literature review.

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Edinburgh Healthcare National Health Service Trust, Family Planning & Woman Services, Scotland.


There is considerable variation in opinion about the importance of drug interactions between the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) and broad-spectrum antibiotics. Clinical practice varies widely, especially between doctors in Europe and those in the US. Rifampicin and griseofulvin induce hepatic enzymes and do appear to have a genuine interaction with the COCP, leading to reduced efficacy. The situation with the broad-spectrum antibiotics is less clear. There are relatively few prospective studies of the pharmacokinetics of concurrent COCP and antibiotic use and few, if any, demonstrate a convincing basis for any reduced contraceptive efficacy. There is evidence, however, that variable contraceptive steroid handling could make some women, at some times, more susceptible to COCP failure. Given the serious consequences of unwanted pregnancy, the cautious approach of using additional or alternative contraception during short courses of broad-spectrum antibiotics and the initial weeks of long-term antibiotic administration may be justified to safeguard the few unidentifiable women who may be at risk. Conflicting opinion and advice is potentially confusing to both professionals and patients, and instructions for additional precautions during and after concurrent COCP and antibiotic use are complicated. Many women are ignorant of, or confused about, the circumstances that can cause OC to fail. Health professionals who prescribe the COCP must continue to strive to educate women about the mode of action and about the times when there is the greatest danger of failure. Professionals who feel that concurrent antibiotic use represents a real threat to contraceptive efficacy of the COCP should be prepared to present the advice for additional contraceptive precautions in a simple and consistent way, backed up with written information and reinforced at regular intervals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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