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Contraception. 2003 May;67(5):349-53.

Efficacy of second versus third generation oral contraceptives in the treatment of hirsutism.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77555-0587, USA.



To compare second versus third generation combination oral contraceptives (OCs) in the treatment of hirsutism.


Women with hirsutism, as defined by a minimum Ferriman-Gallwey score of 10, were randomized in a double-blind fashion to receive an OC containing either ethinyl estradiol/desogestrel or ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel for 9 months of treatment. Ferriman-Gallwey scores, androgen levels and sex hormone-binding globulin were measured at baseline and every 3 months for the duration of the study. Hormones were measured in duplicate by radioimmunoassay.


Of the 47 women enrolled, 24 were randomized to ethinyl estradiol/desogestrel and 23 were randomized to ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel. Mean sex hormone-binding globulin increased significantly in subjects using the desogestrel-containing contraceptive compared with the levonorgestrel-containing contraceptive. Ten subjects completed the 9 months of treatment in the levonorgestrel group and 11 completed the study in the desogestrel group. Mean free testosterone and 3alpha-androstanediol glucuronide decreased significantly in the group receiving ethinyl estradiol/desogestrel but not in the ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel group. Mean Ferriman-Gallwey scores decreased significantly in both treatment groups. Improvement in mean Ferriman-Gallwey score was 35.7 +/- 38.1% (p < 0.001) for the ethinyl estradiol/desogestrel arm and 33.4 +/- 27.3% (p < 0.001) for the ethinyl estradiol/levonorgestrel arm. There were no statistically significant differences found in the improvement of Ferriman-Gallwey scores between the two treatment arms, although the power to detect a difference was limited by the small sample size.


Treatment of hirsute women with third generation OCs containing desogestrel results in a significant increase in sex hormone-binding globulin and decrease in free testosterone and 3alpha-androstanediol glucuronide. Both second and third generation OCs were clinically effective in treating hirsutism.

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