A New Emergency Contraception Option
A recent study set out to assess the one-month pregnancy risk with the levonorgestrel 52-mg intrauterine device (IUD, Liletta®) as compared with the copper IUD (Paragard®) for emergency contraception (EC). The study included adults up to 35 years old who requested EC after unprotected sexual intercourse. Unprotected sexual intercourse must have occurred within the previous five days, but participants were not excluded if unprotected sexual intercourse also occurred up to 14 days prior. Participants were instructed to follow-up one month after IUD insertion for a urine pregnancy test, but even if they did not follow-up, their medical records for the following six months were reviewed to verify if a pregnancy was ever detected.1
Why the Levonorgestrel IUD?
Although not currently approved by the FDA for EC, the copper IUD, has substantial evidence supporting its use for EC. The failure rate of the copper IUD as EC is much lower than that of oral EC options.2-4 However, when compared to the copper IUD, the levonorgestrel IUD is more popular for long-term contraception, likely due to its other benefits, including decreased menstrual bleeding and pain.5-7
Failure Rates and Adverse Events
Of 638 total participants who received an IUD, only one patient experienced an EC failure. The patient had received a levonorgestrel IUD and the pregnancy ended in a spontaneous abortion at ten weeks with the IUD still in place. Statistical analysis of the data showed that the levonorgestrel 52-mg IUD was non-inferior to the copper IUD as EC. Rates of adverse events that required medical attention during the first month of IUD use were similar among both groups and very low overall.1
What Does This Mean for Patients?
This evidence means there is a new highly effective option for patients seeking EC and ongoing long-term contraception within five days of unprotected sexual intercourse. Although Liletta® was the levonorgestrel IUD used in this study, Mirena® is another levonorgestrel 52-mg IUD that releases the same daily dose of levonorgestrel. Other levonorgestrel IUDs release varying amounts of levonorgestrel, so we cannot necessarily expand these results to other options at this time. It is also possible the levonorgestrel IUD could be effective in preventing pregnancy when used up to 14 days after unprotected sexual intercourse, but more research is needed in this patient population.1
What Does This Mean for Pharmacists?
Pharmacists should be aware of this new option when counseling and referring patients who request EC after unprotected sexual intercourse. Of course, pharmacists should also know when it would be appropriate to utilize other EC options and if their state allows them to prescribe oral EC.
For more information:
- Check out Birth Control Pharmacist’s 1-hour continuing pharmacy education program on Emergency Contraception.
- Review and download pocket resources including a Pharmacy Guide to Emergency Contraception and an Emergency Contraception Decision Aid on the Resource page.
- Turok DK, Gero A, Simmons RG, et al. Levonorgestrel vs. copper intrauterine devices for emergency contraception. N Engl J Med. 2021; 384:335-44.
- Cleland K, Zhu H, Goldstuck N, et al. The efficacy of intrauterine devices for emergency contraception: a systematic review of 35 years of experience. Hum Reprod. 2012; 27:1994-2000.
- Glasier AF, Cameron ST, Fine PM, et al. Ulipristal acetate versus levonorgestrel for emergency contraception: a randomized non-inferiority trial and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2010; 375:555-62.
- von Hertzen H, Piaggio G, Ding J, et al. Low dose mifepristone and two regimens of levonorgestrel for emergency contraception: a WHO multicenter randomized trial. Lancet. 2002; 360:1803-10.
- Diedrich JT, Desai S, Zhao Q, et al. Association of short-term bleeding and cramping patterns with long-acting reversible contraceptive method satisfaction. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015; 212:50-8.
- Sanders JN, Myers K, Gawron LM, et al. Contraceptive method use during the community wide HER Salt Lake contraceptive initiative. Am J Public Health. 2018; 108:550-6.
- Peipert JF, Zhao Q, Allsworth JE, et al. Continuation and satisfaction of reversible contraception. Obstet Gynecol. 2011; 117:1105-13.
About the Author
Katie Hood, PharmD Candidate is a pharmacy student in the Class of 2021 at Shenandoah University Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Katie completed an elective APPE rotation with Birth Control Pharmacist.