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Dirithromycin increases ethinyl estradiol clearance without allowing ovulation

Obstetrics and Gynecology
Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer) - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0029-7844(95)00075-3
  • Design
  • Pharmacology


Objective To use a novel, sensitive study design to detect a potential oral contraceptive (OC) and dirithromycin drug interaction by assessing the pharmacokinetics of the ethinyl estradiol (E2) component of a common OC and the potential failure of OC effectiveness. Methods In this nonblinded study, 20 healthy women using Ortho Novum 7/7/7-28 were selected for a three-OC-cycle study. Baseline measures included E2 and progesterone serum levels on days 21, 23, 25, and 27 of cycle one and days 1, 3, 5, and 7 of cycle two. During cycle two, 24-hour blood sampling and radioimmunoassay analysis for ethinyl E2 pharmacokinetics were performed on day 8 and pelvic ultrasound on day 13. Oral dirithromycin 500 mg/day for 14 days began on day 21 of cycle 2. After starting dirithromycin, cycle two and three serum E2, progesterone, and serial ethinyl E2 levels and pelvic ultrasound replicated the baseline schedule. Ovulation was assumed if E2 concentration was greater than 50 pg/mL, progesterone concentration was greater than 3 ng/mL, or if an ovarian cyst greater than 10 mm was present on ultrasound. Results Pharmacokinetic analysis demonstrated a small (7.67) but statistically significant decrease ( P = .03) in the mean ethinyl E2 24-hour area under the curve and an increase in apparent oral clearance. No woman ovulated, based on E2 levels and progesterone concentrations or ultrasound. Conclusion Dirithromycin increased the apparent oral clearance of ethinyl E2. The clinical importance of the interaction may be negligible because no woman ovulated or had compromised OC effectiveness in this small series.

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