Lybrel: Liable to Have Side Effects.

On Tuesday the FDA approved a birth control pill that will suppress monthly bleeding indefinitely. I don’t understand why this is a medical breakthrough. What is wrong with having one’s period? I can’t imagine why women would want to take a pill like Lybrel. Someone please explain this to me.

I said to Tobyjoe last night, “If this pill takes off, I bet the number of miscarriages goes up over the next 10 years.” (Some people believe that miscarriages are linked to long-term pill use.) My statement may be based on little to no fact, but something makes me think that this pill will bring with it unforeseen side effects.

Wyeth’s press release (From May 8, 2006.) The drug was approved yesterday.

Edited to add: Here’s a pretty good article about Lybrel.

49 Comments

  1. My job is related to the pharma field, but I don’t get it either (ESPECIALLY that Seasonale one where you get four periods a year—I would NEVER be able to keep that straight). The only thing I can think of is people who have really painful or awful periods due to endometriosis or whatever. I have to say that I took the Depo shot for a while and didn’t get periods and it was WONDERFUL (though a totally unintentional side effect). And Depo actually does have some pretty serious side effects, so I stopped taking it.

    Reply

  2. I was/am one of those people who are stricken with awful periods. I used to pass out from the pain. My high school once thought I was on drugs and called my mother to tell on me! Every month was the same: miss at least one day of school, stay in bed wishing I were dead, etc. I was 13 when they became really, really bad. I was on the pill by age 15 to try and help me out because my doctor suggested it.

    I guess adult women can make up their own minds. But I can’t imagine being that young and having a doctor suggest that I go on this pill that would make me stop having a period altogether. That seems like such a bad idea. I just know I would never agree to it for my daughter.

    Reply

  3. I am a pill taker. I have been for years. And the idea that you can suspend your period indefinitely is something I find totally scary. Why defy what nature intended your body to go through? (Though I guess some people would say the same about the pill in general).

    Of course, KidKate is right – painful or awful period sufferers somewhere may be incredibly thankful for something like this that may relieve what they suffer through every month.

    While I was in china last year, I took pills back to back in order to “engineer” my cycle to skip a month (Many Chinese bathrooms are awkward enough for foreigners without having to figure out how to handle bleeding, too. Eek.). But even that felt a little sketchy. Messing with what should be a natural occurrence just seems wrong somehow.

    Reply

  4. The pill has imperfect efficacy – 99% with perfect use, 92% with ‘typical’ use (I never understood the difference here…typical being you regularly forget days, take it at different times, and still use it as your only method of birth control? uhhh…). There is no perfect method of birth control – even using more than one method is only a matter of multiplying probabilities.
    I don’t know the biology behind the no-period pill, but in my way of thinking, would you even want to not have a period, knowing that there is a chance you could get pregnant (however miniscule) and not have some natural signal? It seems like it be a bit nerve wracking :p

    Reply

  5. To be honest, I’m sort of hoping all those painful periods will prepare me for my upcoming birth. My cervix took a beating during my teenage years, I’m hoping to sail through the first few hours of labor because of all that pain I endured. heh

    When I was a teenager I had my period for like 5+ days. Now that I’m older (the unpregnant me, of course) has it for 3 tops. I was worried about that when I started to think about having a baby! I was worried that meant i was less fertile. I can’t imagine not having it at all. I think I’d freak out.

    Do you find that your periods are becoming shorter and shorter the older you get? Also, do you find that when you’re on the pill they are short as well?

    Reply

  6. “would you even want to not have a period, knowing that there is a chance you could get pregnant (however miniscule) and not have some natural signal? It seems like it be a bit nerve wracking”

    Oh, holy shit, Ashley, that hadn’t even occurred to me!

    Reply

  7. Yeah, I was on the pill by 15 too! Funny thing is, so were all my friends (all for the same reason—horrible periods) but all of our mothers had told us not to tell anyone so none of us knew until much later. Unfortunately, now I can’t take any type of hormonal birth control at all (weep; my periods were definitely shorter and easier on the pill. Without it, I usually miss a morning of work). Hmmm … not sure what I’ll do after the bebe’s here!

    Oh, one thing I do know about the pill is that if you just skip the placebo week and keep taking your pills straight through, you won’t get a period. Apparently women have been doing it for years (the only reason the pill was engineered to give you a “false” period [no egg] was b/c they thought it’d be too radical for women not to have it. ie, They wouldn’t buy it). But yeah, I probably wouldn’t go that route either. I like to know my plumbing is working :-)

    Reply

  8. I stopped the pill forever ago because I was totally insane while on it. I tried several different kinds over the years and just never found on that didn’t make me feel crazy. So I gave up trying in my mid twenties.

    Never got knocked up either! Well, until now. ;]

    I worked with a 38 year old women who was worried about her fertility because she only menstruated for half a day each month and sometimes not at all. I dunno. I think I’m too much of a recovering hippie chick to do away with something so natural.

    Plus, and I’m probably alone on this one, I always saw it as a monthly cleansing as gross as that may sound. I dunno.

    Reply

  9. Yup, I just don’t get it. As I’ve been getting older my cramps have been getting worse (I like them to someone handing my uterus a blowtorch and a rusty hacksaw for two days) but I guess it’s the burden I have to carry if I ever want little ones someday. My family has bad clotty blood so the Pill has never been an option for me – kinda tragic but I’m not a big fan of screwing with my innerworkings anyhow.

    “I like to know my plumbing is working :-)”
    Amen.
    From the dawn of time we’ve been getting ‘the messy’ once a month – sure its kinda gross and sucks a little but toughen up ladies, at least we don’t have penises. ewwwwwwwwwwww! ;)

    Reply

  10. In all honesty, while I would never want to go on a pill that stopped it, I do know many women who would want a pill like this. I don’t think they developed it for a market that wasn’t there and I think the reality here is that all BC medications have some serious side effects. Some worse than others, sure… but they all have side effects. th

    I started using nuvaring about 6 months ago and I highly recommend it… it has a lower dosage of just about everything because of the way that you take it into your body. I feel less moody and less prone to have radical changes in my cycle. Period is about 2-3 days long… and, I’m not destroying my stomach anymore.

    Now if only my husband and I could just come to some agreement about kids, so we could get it over with the surgical decision.

    Reply

  11. As a male, I’m for anything that does away with PMS.

    Seriously, whatever the right answer to this question is, I wouldn’t be jumping on the bandwagon too quickly. Given the veracity of clinical drug trails and the FDAs track record, I would be concerned about any newly released drug.

    Reply

  12. Well, I was just going to lurk on this topic, but apparently I’m the person that this pill was made for. I do not have any plans to have a child at anytime. I am happily married to a man who also does not want children. My periods are horrible and gross. As soon as this is available I intend to visit my OBGYN and see if I can try this. My periods include: heavy bleeding, cramps that I take very large doses of naproxen which causes me to feel like my stomach is on fire, diahrea, occassional vomiting, and mild depression. Also, I have a hemoragic cyst that fills with blood during my period and then goes away after my period does. I have in the past gone on birth control and taken it close enough together to not have a period. It had some wierd side effects and my doctor advised me to stop. I’m really hoping this new drug works well.

    Reply

  13. When you say you’re hoping it works out, do you mean you’re hoping that they make it available? That it does what it specifies? or that it’s without side affects?

    I’m sorry your periods are so awful, Debra. Mine got a little better as I got older. Thankfully. Perhaps if I were still dropping to the floor, vomiting, suffering from a fever, and getting diarrhea every month, I too might be intrigued by this drug. It just seems so unnatural to me. I dunno. I’m also very fearful of what doctors so easily prescribe these days. I feel like young women might agree to this without reading about its potential side effect, etc. I once had an OBGYN give me a pill for my monthly mood swings. She gave me a drug called Sarafem, which is Prozac, which was NOT something I wanted to be on. At no point did she tell me she was putting me on Prozac. Tobyjoe was the one who found out. (After Nico brought it up on here, come to think of it.)

    Does the pill help with your painful periods? It did mine. It didn’t make them perfect, but I no longer passed out or missed school.

    Is Naproxen for the pain alone?

    Reply

  14. Michele, I am skeptically hopeful about the new drug. I meant to say I hope it works out for me. I hope that it provides relief from my periods without maing me crazy. I haven’t been on the pill in about 2 years. The pill helps a bit, but it also made me essentially bipolar. Naproxen is for the pain, which makes it manageable. I agree that doctors are too quick to prescribe things, but as a consumer I want the option to be there if I want it. With the way medcine seems to be going to more of a fast food approach, I think everyone needs to educate themselves on options anyway.

    Reply

  15. I don’t know anything about this new drug, but I had an IUD for the last three years (until recently) and it made my period go away altogether. Personally, I loved it! I saved money on feminine products, etc. I also made sure to talk to my doctor and do my research (found it was quite common). I don’t have any children, but will within the next five years hopefully. According to the Docs I’ve spoken with and the research I’ve done, it doesn’t look like having no period would effect future childbearing. At least when it comes to using the type of birth control I used (Mirena IUD). My period came back immediately sadly.

    I got it taken out a couple months ago, not because I WANTED my period to come back, but because I thought I was gaining weight and bloated from the hormones (as is the case with most birth control).

    Reply

  16. I don’t quite follow you. My girlfriend has been on a pill that has caused her to not have a period in four years. No miscarriages, no confusion on when to take the pill. It’s just generally awesome all around. How on earth could this be a bad thing?

    Reply

  17. How on earth could this be a bad thing? That’s exactly what we don’t know. There are some people who believe that using the pill for an extended amount of time can lead to future miscarriages or difficulties with becoming pregnant. I’m not a doctor, I don’t presume to know whether or not that’s the case.

    To be honest not having my period for four years would scare me as when a woman stops having her period “naturally” (ie without the introduction of the pill) it’s usually a sign that something is wrong. Personally, and I stated this earlier, it just doesn’t seem very healthy to me. As KidKate mentioned before, I’d want to know if my plumbing still worked.

    Reply

  18. Who knew that Thalidomide would cause birth defects, Vioxx could increase the risk for heart attacks and Viagra could make you go blind?

    Reply

  19. I’m a depo user for many years now, and haven’t had a real period in about 7 years… I like that depo is more effective then the pill (supposedly anyway) and I definitely like not having a period. Though, I have wondered many times what I’m doing to my body by not having one. I usually get the symptons that come along with a period, but just don’t get the bleeding and the cramps.
    I tried the pill for several years before that, but it had horrible side effects for me.
    I’m not thoroughly convinced that the pill won’t give you cancer, especially the older that you get.
    I am curious if this new pill has the same side effects as the regular one has. And is possibly more effective then the normal one.

    Reply

  20. Along the lines of “keeping things natural,” I wouldn’t say taking birth control is “natural.” It’s suppressing a woman’s ability to get pregnant. What’s makes this drug so different other than the fact that it suppresses a woman’s period? Not that I would want to take something that may make me have breakthrough bleeding or spotting like this new drug apparently does.

    In my case, the IUD Mirena just thinned out the lining of my uterus and eliminated my period for a while. It came back immediately.

    Reply

  21. I should finish my thought….

    It came back immediately after I got it taken out.

    Reply

  22. Sarah: Regarding the whole natural thing, I agree. That’s actually the reason I went off it (well, that and it made me crazy.) many years ago.

    I just never fully trusted it. It wasn’t right for me. But, I am also a person who is fairly wary of taking any prescription medication for the reasons that StFarmer stated. Plus, I worked for a massive organization who worked with all the major pharmaceutical firms and the stuff they push through to approval and then down the doctors’ throats (with kickbacks, mind you) left me cynical and overly cautious. (That’s not to say I think BC should be taken off the market, no way.)

    I was once prescribed vioxx for a painful back. I took the free pills the doctor gave me (probably a week’s worth) and then ran out. When I went to renew it, my insurance company wouldn’t cover the cost and I was told I had to call them. Thankfully, I was too lazy to do so and just got Toby to rub my back repeatedly instead. A few months later, Vioxx was in the news for giving people heart problems.

    I dunno. It’s just scary what the FDA is willing to approve. And then it’s scarier what the large pharma companies do to get doctors to prescribe their meds. It’s scariest that people are generally too lazy to do the research and find out what they’re putting into their bodies and what the potential side-effects are.

    Reply

  23. By the way, I’m not anti-pharmacutical (visions of Tom Cruise) – I just think there needs to be more stringent clinical trials. There was a push to fast-track some drug approvals because of the AIDS epidemic. I guess if you’re going to die if you don’t have a drug then fast-tracking is ok but lets require due dilligence on everything else.

    Reply

  24. I’m not anti drugs either. I just think they’re way way over prescribed and usually seen as an easy fix to a problem.

    Found this: “About half the women enrolled in studies of Lybrel dropped out, said Dr. Daniel Shames, a deputy director in the FDA’s drugs office. Many did so because of the irregular and unscheduled bleeding and spotting that can replace scheduled menstruation.”

    And this: ““Women who use Lybrel would not have a scheduled menstrual period, but will most likely have unplanned, breakthrough, unscheduled bleeding or spotting,” Shames said. The bleeding can last four to five days and may persist for a year, he later added. Women who take other low-dose pills have reported similar issues.

    (From this article I’m going to add this to the main post as well. It’s informative.

    (Also mentioned that the study did not include whether or not it stopped the painful side effect associated with periods. Only time will tell that).

    Reply

  25. I’ve been wary about weighing in on this because of my job, so let me just preface this by saying that “the views I express here are entirely my own…” blah blah.

    I went on the pill originally for the same reason many of you have mentioned, and it did help to alleviate my extremely painful, heavy periods (which I often had twice a month for a week at a time). I stopped a while back for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I have become increasingly concerned about the effects of long-term pill use.

    I know the pill has been around for what feels like forever; I’m glad that women have options, and I believe they should continue to have options. I know that all sorts of research done on the short and long-term effects of using the pill. But for me, personally, the thought of dosing myself with hormones every day got to be a little scary. I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

    I do think it should be available for those who choose to take it, but I’m not one of them.

    Reply

  26. So I don’t have much to say about Lybel, but I do have a question for all the women who have posted who say they have quit the pill (with your permission Michele). What do you all use, if not the pill? Of all the options, what do you find most effective?

    I am generally very trusting of doctors. Always have been. I realize that can be a problem. I really like my current doctor but red flags went up everywhere when she teld me that only a small percentage of women have mental/emotional side affects on the pill and she doesn’t think its effecting me that way. A couple of my friends had problems with it and then I read comments like these… yeah, so my doctor-trust is waning a bit. I want to know what my mental health would be like without it, but am too afraid of getting pregnant.

    Reply

  27. You don’t need my permission, lady! Ask anything you want whenever you want. Hopefully folks will answer.

    As far as birth control goes, well, before we started talking about having kids, we used condoms. I used a diaphragm for a while as well. But condoms were our guard of choice. The thing with me was that in order to not feel totally insane all the time hormonally, I would have had to take a pill with a lower dose of hormones, which are less effective as the higher doses. (Not by much, but still.) Basically, it seemed that the pill was going to be as effective for me as a condom assuming the thing doesn’t break. I have always used condoms. I am partial to non spermicidal (lubricant free) and adding my own. (I have had really bad allergic reactions to spermicide.)

    I have always used condoms. I/we became a little sloppy when TJ and I started talking about kids.

    Reply

  28. If that’s TMI, sorry, folks. But I have always thought that talking about this kind of stuff is better than not doing so.

    Reply

  29. yarnhelmut: Honestly, I wish there was a good alternative to the hormones. For me, it wasn’t the bipolar thing but hideous, recurrent yeast infections (TMI? sorry) that led to abnormal cervical cells and a biopsy (fortunately negative); I then tried Depo but it gave me something called atrophy “down there” and I had to use a hormone cream that they prescribe for women going through menopause (at the time I was not yet 30)! Honestly, I would be much happier if I could go back on the pill but I have tried that and every hormonal option out there: low-estrogen pills, progesterone “mini” pills, the patch, Depo, etc, and nothing has worked!

    As far as birth control, well, it’s touch and go. (Here I am, 24 weeks pregnant if that tells you anything.) Fortunately, by the time I’d come off everything we were at a point where it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I got pregnant (and eventually were ready for one—it actually took a little longer than I thought). Once I have the baby, I may go back to the progesterone “mini” pills; they are actually designed for women who are breast feeding and didn’t give me infections. But I quit them because they made my periods really painful and irregular (which, was sort of why I’d gone on the pill to begin with!).

    Anyway, my problem is rare and you should make the decision that’s right for you. My advice would be to start with a very low-dose estrogen pill like Yasmin and see how you do.

    Reply

  30. Hey, thanks! My husband and I have been discussing this for the last couple years and haven’t gotten anywhere. It helps to hear what works for other people.

    Reply

  31. Condoms at first, but when the sponge came back on the market I switched to that. I love it.

    Reply

  32. Jen, the sponge? I need a new form of BC once the baby is born. I might give it a go! Do you mind giving more information? Is it like the diaphragm?

    Reply

  33. Yep, it is similar to a diaphragm. It’s a little round flexible thing with a dimple on one side to fit over your cervix. It also contains a spermicide which is activated by giving it a quick rinse under warm water and then squeezing it gently to suds it up before insertion.

    It is effective immediately once you put it in, a single sponge is good for up to 24 hours of protection, you don’t have to insert a new one every time you have a go during that time period, but you do need to leave it in for 6 hours after your last round. There is a little fabric loop on the backside which you pull to remove it.

    If you’re prone to UTIs or extra sensitive to spermicides, this might not be the best choice for you, but I’m sensitive to a lot of things and haven’t had a problem with it.

    Reply

  34. KidKate, I can relate. ugh.
    I’ve always been a little nervous about condoms, or anything else for that matter, because I am really sensitive. but yeah, I often wonder how much of the other problems I have (depression / yeast infections) are due to the pill. or at least agravated by it. eventually, I imagine I’ll try something else and just see how it goes. It shouldn’t be so difficult!

    Reply

  35. You know, I wonder if men would be afraid to take a pill to kill of sperm temporarily. I wonder if there are any tests being done to create a pill for men. Someone once said, “Yeah, but would you trust a man who said he was on the pill?” Fortunately, some of us aren’t going out and banging complete strangers, so, yes, I would trust a man if he said he was on the pill.

    Not sure where I’m going with this one. But a cynical part of me who believes that many of the folks behind approving such drugs as well the folks creating them are men. I can’t help but wonder if they haven’t come up with such a BC option because they don’t want to mess with their junk. God forbid. ;]

    Reply

  36. Sorry, guys, didn’t mean to take this otherwise informative thread of comments into a rant. :] Hormones! (I will blame it all on hormones.)

    Reply

  37. Article about male contraception:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3543478/

    Reply

  38. DOH! My first attempt Textile, a dismal failure!

    Article about Male Contraception

    Reply

  39. mihow- my quote from that article you added is from Prof. Elson: “Why medicate away a normal life event if we’re not sure of the long-term effects?” Now again, this is speaking of the average woman with the normal menstrual pains and all; not the extreme cases. But i would like to add that last year i had my uterus scraped b/c of polyps that were causing irregular bleeding (TMI? sorry). and i’m wondering this: if i hadn’t been having regular periods i might not have known b/c what is irregular bleeding if the medication you are on stops regular bleeding but may cause “unplanned, breakthrough, unscheduled bleeding or spotting” ? But i should also add that i’m never very interested in taking prescription drugs and stopped taking the pill in my mid-twenties b/c it made me over anxious and really, really tense. I haven’t tried any medication for birth control since. My husband and i are just, shall we say, very careful.

    Reply

  40. I might be making a GRAND assumption but from what I know of the male sex they are VERY protective of their little guys. I am 100% sure that my otherwise rational manfriend would be horrified at the idea of messing with his chemistry – yet another reason I don’t feel bad not being on the pill. If he gets to have functioning baby-making parts, I do too. And condoms it will be.

    Reply

  41. Sarah C, I couldn’t agree more. You said it, woman!

    Gina: you too!

    StFarmer: gonna read that now.

    Reply

  42. ha! First paragraph of the article StFarmer linked to:

    Forty-year-old Scott Hardin says he’s glad that men may soon have a new choice when it comes to birth control. But, he adds, he would not even consider taking a male hormonal contraceptive. Hardin is like many men who are pleased to hear they may have a new option but are wary of taking any type of hormones.

    Yet…. they expect us to take them and f*ck with our chemistry? Fair? I THINK NOT!

    Reply

  43. From the article:
    “It is time for men to have some control. I think it would empower men and deter some women out there from their nefarious plans,” says Brown. “Some women are out there to use men to get pregnant. This could deter women from doing this. An athlete or a singer is someone who could be a target and they could put a stop to that.”

    SERIOUSLY? “nefarious”? He’s lucky I dont have PMS right now.
    …Would be great for rapists too!

    Reply

  44. Now I know why Lybrel is such a great birth control pill. Because it makes you bleed everyday!!! How in the world are you going to have sex with your period! There is not a chance! I am extremely unsatisfied with the pill. I am taking the pill to rid myself from PMS, painful menstrual cramps and acne. If the pill is supposed to end periods then why are the effects totally the opposite?!

    Reply

  45. ok , ok, people. To the original article – the only reason I agreed to take it was for medical purposes. I plan on having kids in the future, but my endometriosis is threatening that – if my period continues every month, the disease will build up causing permanent damage to my uterus and ovaries. (and the endometeriosis caused unbelievable pain that only strong prescribed meds would suppress) My doctor has a theory that if my period is stopped for a certain amount of time, maybe I’ll still have a chance of fertility by not letting the disease grow. Instead of those harmful monthly shots people are getting, I have opted on this little pill. The ones who are complaining about constant bleeding have not been on it long enough. It took 6 months for mine to completely go away (obviously, because you’re body has to get used to it – big change!) I have been on it for a year and a half and haven’t had breakthrough bleeding for 11 months. SO, I see no damage in this pill if you are abstinent. I dont think this pill should be considered birth control, truthfully, because really it is just hormone therapy. In the first couple of months, conceiving is very possible. And if people are worried about all the harmful side affects, then get checked regularly (like you’re supposed to anyway).
    ~End rant~ :)

    Reply

  46. I love Lybrel: I am in premenopause. I would have terrable mood swings and night sweats and hot flashes during the breakthrough bleeding week on regular birth control pills. The only bad thing that I can say is that there is some break through bleeding and I gained 10 pounds shortly after starting it.

    Reply

  47. OMG…. I am 46 and dont plan on having anymore children…premenopause is a pain in the butt!!! periods lasting forever… bleeding more of the month then not..that is the wonderful reason for taking this pill. It’s not like you can just shut it off when your done having children. You will understand when your time comes, why this pill is great for some of us.

    Reply

  48. For those who say they take the pill but still like their periods – I hope you know that the period you get on the pill is a fake period. You haven’t built up the lining, you are forcing your body to bleed, and everytime you force your body to bleed it has to repair itself and everytime it has to repair itself, there is a chance it won’t do it correctly. Do some research on it. I have been taking pills continuously for 10 years now – no period has been wonderful FOR ME. This is a choice we should all embrace choices for women, whether you want to do it or not is up to you. Please don’t decide for me.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s