Oral emergency contraception with levonorgestrel plus piroxicam: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial

Lancet. 2023 Sep 9;402(10405):851-858. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(23)01240-0. Epub 2023 Aug 16.


Background: Levonorgestrel, a standard drug for emergency contraception (EC), is not effective if administered post-ovulation. A cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor could contribute synergistic effects. We investigated whether a single 40 mg oral dose of piroxicam as co-treatment with levonorgestrel improved emergency contraceptive efficacy.

Methods: This was a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial carried out in a major community sexual and reproductive health service in Hong Kong. Women who required levonorgestrel EC within 72 h of unprotected sexual intercourse were recruited and block-randomised in a 1:1 ratio to receive a single supervised dose of levonorgestrel 1·5 mg plus either piroxicam 40 mg or placebo orally. Group assignment was concealed in opaque envelopes and masked to the women, clinicians, and investigators. At follow-up 1-2 weeks after the next expected period, the pregnancy status was noted by history or pregnancy test. The primary efficacy outcome was the proportion of pregnancies prevented out of those expected based on an established model. All women randomised to receive the study drug and who completed the follow-up were analysed. The trial was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03614494.

Findings: 860 women (430 in each group) were recruited between Aug 20, 2018, and Aug 30, 2022. One (0·2%) of 418 efficacy-eligible women in the piroxicam group were pregnant, compared with seven (1·7%) of 418 in the placebo group (odds ratio 0·20 [95% CI 0·02-0·91]; p=0·036). Levonorgestrel plus piroxicam prevented 94·7% of expected pregnancies compared with 63·4% for levonorgestrel plus placebo. We noted no significant difference between the two groups in the proportion of women with advancement or delay of their next period, or in the adverse event profile.

Interpretation: Oral piroxicam 40 mg co-administered with levonorgestrel improved efficacy of EC in our study. Piroxicam co-administration could be considered clinically where levonorgestrel EC is the option of choice.

Funding: None.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Contraception, Postcoital*
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital*
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Piroxicam
  • Pregnancy


  • Piroxicam
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Contraceptives, Postcoital

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03614494