Effect of phlebotomy versus oral contraceptives containing cyproterone acetate on the clinical and biochemical parameters in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial

J Ovarian Res. 2019 Aug 30;12(1):78. doi: 10.1186/s13048-019-0554-9.


Background: Reduction of the body iron stores can improve hyperandrogenemia and insulin resistance. This study aimed to compare clinical and para-clinical responses to the treatment of phlebotomy using oral contraceptive pills (OCs) containing cyproterone acetate in women with PCOS.

Methods: In this randomized clinical trial, 64 patients with PCOS were randomly assigned to the phlebotomy and OCs groups (n = 32 in each group). The intervention group, using a single treatment procedure, underwent venesection of 450 mL of whole blood at the early follicular phase of the spontaneous or progesterone-induced menstrual cycle. The control group received OCs pills for 3 months from the 1th day of spontaneous or progesterone-induced menstrual cycle onwards for 3 weeks, followed by a pill-free interval of 7 days. The women were evaluated after the 3-month intervention. The primary outcome measure was a change in the HOMA-IR and free androgen index (FAI). Secondary outcomes were changes in the Ferriman-Gallwey (FG) score and other clinical, biochemical and hormonal changes from the baseline (pre-treatment) to week 12.

Results: In the phlebotomy group, 27 (84.3%) and in the OCs group 30 (93.7%) of the women completed the 3-month follow-up. The median HOMA-IR significantly decreased from 3.5 to 2.7 in the phlebotomy, and from 3.1 to 2.8 in the OCs group, and the changes were comparable between the groups. Median changes in the FAI significantly decreased in both groups, but the differences were not statistically significant between the groups (P = 0.061). With regard to secondary outcomes, mean FG scores in both groups significantly decreased [from 16.8 (6) to 13.3 (7.4), P < 0.028] in the phlebotomy group and [from 14.3 (7) to 9.8 (7.6) in the OCs group, P = 0.001] after 3 months of treatment, but such changes had no statistically significant differences between the groups. During treatment, menstrual cycles became regular in all women in the OCs group and in 12.27 (44.4%) of the women in the phlebotomy group, and the difference was statistically significant (P = 0.001). Despite no statistically significant differences in lipid profiles between the groups at the baseline, triglycerides were significantly higher in the OCs group compared to the phlebotomy at end of follow up (p = 0.019).

Conclusion: Both treatment modalities had similar beneficial effects on insulin resistance and on androgenic profiles. However, OCs was reported more effective in treating menstrual irregularities and phlebotomy had less adverse effects on triglyceride concentrations.

Trial registration: Code: IRCT2013080514277N1 .

Keywords: Cyproterone compound; Phlebotomy; Polycystic ovarian syndrome; Randomized control trial (RCT).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Androgens / blood
  • Androstenedione / blood
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use*
  • Cyproterone Acetate / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Phlebotomy*
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / blood
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / therapy*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Androgens
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Cyproterone Acetate
  • Cholesterol