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Headache. 2007 Jan;47(1):27-37.

Headaches and oral contraceptives: impact of eliminating the standard 7-day placebo interval.

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Scott and White Memorial Hospital--Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2401 South 31st Street, Temple, TX 76508, USA.



The aim was to assess the timing and severity of self-reported headaches in patients utilizing a standard 28-day oral contraceptive (OC) cycle consisting of 21 hormone (estrogen + progestin)-containing pills and 7 placebo pills (ie, 21/7-day cycle) converted to a placebo-free extended OC regimen.


An open label single-center prospective analysis of headaches recorded daily on a severity scale of 0 to 10, along with the headache item of the Penn Daily Symptom Rating (DSR17) and a weekly modified Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) headache questionnaire, during standard 21/7-day cycles followed by a 168-day extended placebo-free regimen of an OC containing 3 mg of drosperinone and 30 mcg of ethinyl estradiol (DRSP/EE).


Of the 114 patients who began the trial, 111 completed the 21/7-day cycle portion of the study. Based on the headaches scales, there were significant differences in headache severity among the 28 days of the standard 21/7 cycles (P < .001). Greater headache severity occurred on days 25 through 28 during the 7-day placebo interval of the 21/7 cycles (P < .05). Of the 111 patients who completed the 21/7 phase of the study, 102 (92%) completed the 168-day extended placebo-free OC regimen. During the first 28 days of the extended placebo-free regimen, daily headache scores decreased (P < .0001) compared to those of the previous 21 active/7 placebo day cycle. The difference on a daily basis was first detected on extended cycle days 25 through 28 (P < .0001) and persisted throughout the remainder of the 168-day regimen. Subjects were divided into 2 groups (severe and mild) based on the median of the total headache score during the 21/7 OC cycle. The group with higher total headache scores demonstrated a significant (P < .0001) reduction in daily headaches beginning in the first 28-day interval of the extended placebo-free regimen, persisting throughout the entire 168-day extended regimen. In contrast, the group with the lower total headache score remained unchanged (P= .79) throughout the extended regimen. Impact of headaches on work, family, and social functions also improved on the extended placebo-free regimen in 6 of 8 measures (P < .05) assessed by weekly headache questionnaires.


Compared to a 21/7-day OC regimen, a 168-day extended placebo-free regimen of DRSP/EE led to a decrease in headache severity along with improvement in work productivity and involvement in activities. This is a preliminary study and results may not be widely generalizable.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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