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New Birth Control Pill Smoothes Away PMS

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

May 1, 2001 (Chicago) -- Birth control pills are the multitasking drugs of the new millenium. Once used only for contraception, the drugs are now used to treat conditions ranging from headache to acne.

Now an investigational birth control that uses a new type of the hormone, a progestin called drospirenone, is demonstrating impressive -- but unproven -- benefits for women with premenstrual syndrome, says Candace Brown, PharmD, of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Brown tells WebMD that women who take the new pill, called Yasmin, don't experience weight gain and are less likely to experience moodiness and irritability before and during their menstrual cycles. Brown, who holds joint appointments as a professor of pharmacy practice, obstetrics and gynecology, and psychiatry, presented findings Tuesday at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists meeting from a study of 258 women who took the pill.

In the study, the women knew they were taking Yasmin and were asked to fill in diaries about their premenstrual symptoms after they completed six months on the pill. Brown says this study design is "not well controlled, so we will need to wait for results of a well planned, placebo-controlled trial to verify the findings."

Nonetheless, she says that the results of this trial are very encouraging because the women "had marked changes in their responses to the Menstrual Distress Questionnaire." After six months, the women said they felt better and had less water retention than before they took the pill, she says.

Brown says there are probably several explanations for these positive findings. First, the new pill has what's called a monophasic design, meaning that it releases the same dose of the hormones in each dose. "Other pills vary the dose during the cycle, and I think they may not be as effective in controlling moodiness," she says.

Additionally, the pill is a very effective diuretic, so it prevents water retention and the uncomfortable feelings that accompany water retention, she says. Moreover the pill is antiandrogenic, meaning it blocks male hormones. This property has two potential benefits: reducing mood swings and treating acne.

Kathleen Fitzgerald, MD, a clinical assistant professor at Brown University in Providence, R.I., tells WebMD that "we are always searching for the perfect birth control pill." The search continues, she says, because women have different needs and because ob-gyns are using birth control pills for "more than birth control. We use them to control menstrual bleeding, for migraines, for acne and to treat PMS. Using a birth control pill for PMS is not a novel concept."

The pill itself is not yet approved as a birth control pill, says Brown. Yasmin's manufacturer, Berlex Laboratories, is awaiting final approval and "is anticipating that the FDA will approve Yasmin sometime this summer." Brown says Berlex is then expected to ask the FDA to approve the pill for treatment of PMS.

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