Objective: Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors reduce prostaglandin synthesis and disrupt essential reproductive processes. Ultrasound studies in women demonstrated that oral COX-2 inhibitors can delay or prevent follicle collapse associated with ovulation. The goal of this study was to determine if oral administration of a COX-2 inhibitor can inhibit reproductive function with sufficient efficacy to prevent pregnancy in primates.
Study design: The COX-2 inhibitor meloxicam (or vehicle) was administered orally to proven fertile female cynomolgus macaques using one emergency contraceptive model and three monthly contraceptive models. In the emergency contraceptive model, females were bred with a proven fertile male once 2±1 days before ovulation, returned to the females' home cage, and then received 5 days of meloxicam treatment. In the monthly contraceptive models, females were co-caged for breeding with a proven fertile male for a total of 5 days beginning 2±1 days before ovulation. Animals received meloxicam treatment (1) cycle days 5-22, or (2) every day, or (3) each day of the 5-day breeding period. Female were then assessed for pregnancy.
Results: The pregnancy rate with meloxicam administration using the emergency contraception model was 6.5%, significantly lower than the pregnancy rate of 33.3% when vehicle without meloxicam was administered. Pregnancy rates with the three monthly contraceptive models (75%-100%) were not consistent with preventing pregnancy.
Conclusions: Oral COX-2 inhibitor administration can prevent pregnancy after a single instance of breeding in primates. While meloxicam may be ineffective for regular contraception, pharmacological inhibition of COX-2 may be an effective method of emergency contraception for women.
Implications: COX-2 inhibitors can interfere with ovulation, but the contraceptive efficacy of drugs of this class has not been directly tested. This study, conducted in nonhuman primates, is the first to suggest that a COX-2 inhibitor may be effective as an emergency contraceptive.
Keywords: Cyclooxygenase inhibitor; Monkey; Ovary; Ovulation; Prostaglandin.