IUD-Released Levonorgestrel Eases Heavy Menstrual Periods

For women with excessive menstrual blood loss, the contraceptive levonorgestrel 52 mg delivered via an intrauterine device (IUD) reduced monthly blood loss by more than 90% over six monthly cycles, a multicenter open-label study reports.

Median blood loss decreased by more than 90% in the first three cycles. Overall, treatment was successful in 81.8% of 99 patients (95% confidence interval, 74.2%-89.4%), according to findings published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Already approved for contraception, the IUD (Liletta) had substantial benefits for quality of life in measures such as sleep, pain/cramping, and daily functioning, wrote a group led by Mitchell D. Creinin, MD, a professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of California, Davis.

“This study provides evidence of high efficacy, as expected, for the Liletta levonorgestrel 52 mg IUD for heavy menstrual bleeding treatment,” Dr. Creinin said in an interview.

Racially diverse cohort

Conducted at 29 U.S. sites prior to seeking FDA registration for this new use, the phase 3 open-label trial of the 52 mg progestin-releasing IUD enrolled 105 participants with a mean age of 35.4 years. Unlike previous trials, this one included obese or severely obese women (44.8%), with 42 participants having a body mass index (BMI) of more than 35 kg/m2, and also 28 nulliparous women (27.6%).

Those with abnormalities such as fibroids or coagulopathies were excluded. Although most of the cohort was White (n = 68), the study included Black (n = 25), Asian (n = 4), and Hispanic (n = 10) women, plus 7 from other minorities, suggesting the results would be widely applicable.

Mean baseline blood loss in the cohort ranged from 73 mL to 520 mL (median, 143 mL). Of 89 treated women with follow-up, participants had a median absolute blood-loss decreases of 93.3% (86.1%-97.8%) at cycle three and 97.6% (90.4%-100%) at cycle six. Median bleeding reductions at cycle six were similar between women with and without obesity at 97.6% and 97.5%, respectively, and between nulliparous and parous women at 97.0% and 98.1%, respectively (P = .43). The study, however, was not sufficiently powered to fully analyze these subgroups, the authors acknowledged.

Although results were overall comparable with those of a previous study on a different IUD, the expulsion rate was somewhat higher, at 9%, than the 6% reported in the earlier study.

“Although this strategy for reducing blood loss is not new, this study is notable because it looked at high-BMI women and nulliparous women,” said Kathryn J. Gray, MD, PhD, an attending physician in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the research.”No prior trials have included patients with BMIs exceeding 35 kg/m2 or nulliparous patients, while this study enrolled a full array of patients, which allowed exploratory analyses of these subpopulations,” Dr. Creinin confirmed.

According to Dr. Gray, the IUD approach has advantages over systemic treatment with oral medication. “First, treatment is not user-dependent so the user doesn’t have to remember to take it. In addition, because the medication is locally targeted in the uterus, it is more effective and there is less fluctuation and variability in drug levels than when taken orally.”

As to treatment durability, Dr. Creinin said, “Long-term studies in a population being treated for heavy menstrual bleeding would be helpful to have an idea of how long this effect lasts. Still, there is no reason to expect that the effect will not last for many years.”

And with this treatment, he added, both patient and clinician can readily detect its effect. “If bleeding begins to increase, they will know!”

Would there be a lingering residual effect even after removal of the IUD? “That is an excellent question that remains to be answered,” Dr. Creinin said. “There are no data on when the heavy bleeding returns, but it would be expected to do so.”

This study was funded, designed, and supervised by Medicines360, which also provided the study treatment. Dr. Creinin disclosed financial relationships with various private-sector companies, including Medicines360, Organon, Fuji Pharma, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck & Co. Multiple study coauthors disclosed similar financial ties to industry partners, including Medicines360. Dr. Gray had no potential conflicts of interest with regard to her comments.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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