Background: A single 10 mg dose of mifepristone, and two 0.75 mg doses of levonorgestrel 12 h apart, are effective for emergency contraception. Because no studies had compared the efficacies of both compounds, or investigated a single dose of 1.5 mg levonorgestrel, we undertook this three-arm trial.
Methods: We did a randomised, double-blind trial in 15 family-planning clinics in 10 countries. We randomly assigned 4136 healthy women with regular menstrual cycles, who requested emergency contraception within 120 h of one unprotected coitus, to one of three regimens: 10 mg single-dose mifepristone; 1.5 mg single-dose levonorgestrel; or two doses of 0.75 mg levonorgestrel given 12 h apart. The primary outcome was unintended pregnancy; other outcomes were side-effects and timing of next menstruation. Analysis was by intention to treat, but we did exclude some patients from the final analyses.
Findings: Of 4071 women with known outcome, pregnancy rates were 1.5% (21/1359) in those given mifepristone, 1.5% (20/1356) in those assigned single-dose levonorgestrel, and 1.8% (24/1356) in women assigned two-dose levonorgestrel. These proportions did not differ significantly (p=0.83). The relative risk of pregnancy for single-dose levonorgestrel compared with two-dose levonorgestrel was 0.83 (95% CI 0.46-1.50), and that for levonorgestrel (the two regimens combined) compared with mifepristone, 1.05 (0.63-1.76). Side-effects were mild and did not differ greatly between groups, and most women menstruated within 2 days of the expected date. Women who took levonorgestrel had earlier menses than did those who took mifepristone.
Interpretation: The three regimens studied are very efficacious for emergency contraception and prevent a high proportion of pregnancies if taken within 5 days of unprotected coitus. Mifepristone and levonorgestrel do not differ in efficacy. A 1.5 mg single levonorgestrel dose can substitute two 0.75 mg doses 12 h apart.