A new study published in PLOS Computational Biology has found that hormonal dosages in contraceptives can be reduced by up to 92% while still effectively suppressing ovulation. The study analyzed hormone levels in 23 women with normal menstrual cycles and constructed a model that showed the interactions between numerous hormone levels and the effect of exogenous hormones. The findings suggest that lowering the hormonal dosage to the lowest effective dose reduces potential risks of complications and side effects, such as blood clots, nausea, breast tenderness, bloating, and irritability.
The study also found that timing the hormones during the menstrual cycle is crucial for controlling bleeding and increasing the efficacy of the medication. The model showed that as low as 10% of the total exogenous estrogen dose in constant administration could achieve contraception as long as this dosage is perfectly timed. The researchers hope that their findings will aid clinicians in identifying the most favorable dose and treatment schedule for contraception to achieve the most effective and efficient drug use.
However, it is important to note that the results of the study are not directly translatable to actual patients, and choosing a contraceptive can be complex, incorporating the patient’s medical history, goals, age, etc. It is best to discuss the options on an individual basis with a patient’s provider. In addition, some women prefer regular cycles while others may prefer less frequent and lighter bleeding that is less predictable. Some methods may require regular intervention, such as taking a daily pill, while others, such as the IUD, require an office procedure for insertion but are effective for an extended period of time.
Ultimately, the study suggests that significantly reducing the dosage of hormonal contraceptives would alleviate side effects like thrombosis and myocardial infarction. The researchers hope that their mathematical model could be coupled with a pharmacokinetics model to obtain patient-specific dosing schemes, leading to safer and more efficient contraception.