Breakthrough Birth Control Pills Being Tested in Denver

University of Colorado’s Family Planning chosen as a site to conduct NIH research into safer daily contraceptive method with fewer side effects.

Denver (October 6, 2014)— University of Colorado researchers are working to develop a completely new form of birth control that would eliminate many of the side effects of the daily pill, and be safer and more effective for heavier women. Currently, “the pill” is used for contraception by more than 10,000,000 women in the United States, but as Americans put on more weight, there has been increasing concern about safety.

One of 10 research clinics chosen to receive a grant and participate in this groundbreaking National Institutes of Health clinical trial, the Family Planning Division of the University of Colorado School of Medicine currently is recruiting select participants.

“This is a huge opportunity to give women an effective daily contraceptive pill that is safer and carries fewer side effects,” said Stephanie Teal, MD, director of the UC Family Planning Division within the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “This research will test the first completely new molecule to be used in daily contraception since the hormones progesterone and estrogen. It has the potential to be a major advancement, the introduction of a new first line contraceptive.”

The most commonly used birth control pills utilize the hormones progesterone and estrogen. Progesterone prevents ovulation but can cause the side effect of unscheduled bleeding, which can range from annoying to life disrupting. Estrogen reduces that side effect but carries many of its own, including a predisposition toward blood clotting, which can result in a stroke.

These side affects are more prevalent in obese women, which is worrisome as obesity rates continue to climb. The pill as it currently exists makes this health risk worse. That’s a major reason why physicians would prefer to use a molecule that doesn’t cause breakthrough bleeding without having to add estrogen to it, said Teal. Without estrogen, the risks of blood clots are greatly reduced, as are side effects of breast tenderness, nausea, headaches and many others.

The new molecule being tested is a selective progesterone receptor modulator, ulipristal acetate, which binds to the same receptors progesterone does but without the side effects. It has been studied in the treatment of uterine fibroids, showing a positive effect on bleeding and ovulation prevention.

Ten research institutes will participate in the first part of the study. Nineteen institutes were chosen for the entire seven-year study.

This is the third seven-year grant UC’s Family Planning Division has received from NIH’s Contraceptive Clinical Trials Network. Teal said the department was chosen because of its previous experience and performance in contraceptive clinical research and the university’s reputation as a top research institute.

About University of Colorado OB-GYN & Family Planning

University of Colorado OB-GYN & Family Planning is one of the most diversified OB-GYN practices in the Denver area. Notable services at our women’s health clinics include university hospital care with a private practice model, women’s health research & studies, contraception, pregnancy care, infertility treatment, VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), & menopause treatment.