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Combined hormonal contraceptive use in Europe before and after the European Commission mandated changes in product information

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Objectives: We investigated combined hormonal contraceptives (CHC) prescribing patterns (focusing on combined oral contraceptives; COC) in three countries (Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom) in a time period preceding and in a time period following the European Commission's decision to update product information, and we estimated changes in incidence of venous thromboembolism (VTE) between the two periods. Study design: We conducted a drug utilization analysis and a cohort study using routinely collected data. We calculated number, proportion and incidence rate of new users, switchers, and stoppers of COC in both time periods. VTE incidence was calculated in new users of COC and in all women aged 18–49 years. Results: In all countries, the largest proportion (> 75%) of new users used COC containing levonorgestrel, norethisterone, or norgestimate, (i.e., indicated by European Medicines Agency (EMA) as the safest preparations) in both time periods. Switching did not demonstrate a clear pattern towards these types of COC and distribution of stoppers was similar in both time periods. While the proportion of new users initiating COC containing levonorgestrel, norethisterone, or norgestimate increased slightly, this did not translate to a decrease in the overall VTE incidence. Conclusion: All three countries had the greatest proportion of women initiating a COC containing levonorgestrel, norethisterone, or norgestimate, and this proportion increased in the period after the European Commission decision albeit the increase was small due to the high percentage of use before the decision. This did not translate into a measureable change in the incidence of VTE. Implications: Both before and after the European Commission's decision, the largest proportion of new users started with combined oral contraceptives containing levonorgestrel, norethisterone, or norgestimate. Earlier studies had already indicated an increased risk of VTE associated with COC containing other progestogens compared with these preparations, so it is possible that physicians were already preferentially prescribing COC containing levonorgestrel, norethisterone, or norgestimate to new users.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100018
JournalContraception: X
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • Combined oral contraceptives, Prescription patterns, Risk, Venous thromboembolism

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