Drospirenone 3 mg/ethinyl estradiol 20 microg (24/4) is a new unique oral contraceptive formulation that combines in a novel dosing regimen the lowest dosage of ethinyl estradiol commonly used today with drospirenone, an innovative progestin. Drospirenone is a compound closely resembling progesterone, but with the antimineralocorticoid and antiandrogenic properties of a related therapeutic agent, the diuretic, antihypertensive and androgen receptor antagonist, 17alpha-spironolactone. The prolongation of hormonally active pills in the monthly drospirenone/ethinyl estradiol cycle from 21 days to 24 days, followed by 4 days of inactive pills, is an interesting variant of the recently developed extended pill regimens (1). Recent contraceptive research has focused on improving side effect profiles and providing noncontraceptive health and lifestyle advantages. Many of these benefits are now supported with evidence-based medicine (2). Most available oral contraceptives improve cycle regularity, menstrual pain, excessive menstrual flow and acne. However, weight gain, bloating, food cravings, breast tenderness and mood alterations (especially irritability and depression and the complex of affective, behavioral and somatic symptoms of premenstrual syndrome [PMS] and the severe form of PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder [PMDD]) are not generally improved with the traditional oral contraceptive formulations (3). Drospirenone/ethinyl estradiol 24/4 is currently the only hormonally based contraceptive regimen with large, randomized, controlled trials demonstrating efficacy for PMDD. It has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indications not only for the prevention of pregnancy but also for PMDD and for moderate acne vulgaris in women who choose oral contraception for birth control (4, 5).
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