Depo Provera: still controversial

Int Health News. 1988 Feb;9(2):2-3, 8.


PIP: The use of depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), or Depo Provera, has been debated for the 20 years since it became available in 1967. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused to approve Depo Provera on the basis that it caused breast tumors in a controlled study of Beagle dogs and Rhesus monkeys conducted by Upjohn, the manufacturer. Depo Provera has been approved in over 60 other countries and is in use in 30 or 40 others with an estimated total of almost 5 million users. A natural hormone, progesterone, DMPA is injected intramuscularly and absorbed slowly. Common dosage is 150 mg every 3 months and usually is administered during the 1st week of the menstrual cycle. The pregnancy rate with Depo Provera is .44 pregnancies/100 women years for women receiving 100 mg every 3 months. No pregnancies were recorded in recent studies for women receiving 150 mg. Possible side effects include amenorrhea, weight gain, dizziness and headaches. The median time for contraception after the presumed duration of one's last injection is 5-1/2 months. Some countries only permit women who already have 1 child to use Depo Provera. The FDA in the US approves the use of Depo Provera for treatment of endometrial and renal cancer but accuses it of causing cancer in Beagles and Rhesus monkeys. The studies were conducted over 7 and 10-year periods, respectively, with extremely negative results including the death of 3 dogs due to "drug-induced diabetes," atrophication of adrenal glands, and malignant tumors. There were similar results for the monkey study. In the UK, the Committee for Safety in Medicine supports Upjohn's view that Beagles are unsuitable for comparison testing because "all dogs are acutely sensitive to progesterone." Groups such as the National Women's Health Network, the institute for Food and Development Policy, and "Mother Jones" have used the media to generate opposition to Depo Provera, citing a double standard for rich and poor women, developed and less developed countries. The proponents of Depo Provera criticize health activists for imposing their own standards on women in developing countries. Regarding concerns about greater risk of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Depo Provera can be injected with disposable needles. In response to the controversy, Upjohn withdrew its application to the FDA in September 1986 but intends to resubmit with new information from a World Health Organization report, which showed no evidence of an increased risk of cancers of the endometrium, liver, or breast.

MeSH terms

  • Americas
  • Animals, Laboratory*
  • Biology
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Contraception
  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Developed Countries*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Disease*
  • Economics
  • Endocrine System
  • Family Planning Services
  • Government Agencies*
  • Hormones*
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate*
  • Neoplasms*
  • North America
  • Organizations*
  • Physiology
  • Politics*
  • Reproductive Control Agents*
  • Research*
  • Technology
  • United States


  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Hormones
  • Reproductive Control Agents
  • Medroxyprogesterone Acetate