Friday, August 26, 2005

Noncontraceptive Use of the Pill

Here's a good example of a noncontraceptive use of the Pill, from a small study on endometriosis pain: the combination Pill as an adjuvant to a cancer drug.

Arimidex, a drug used for breast cancer, is used in the study to reduce the pain of endometriosis. Alesse, a combination Pill, is used to prevent the osteoporosis [loss of bone density] associated with the cancer drug:

A drug used to treat and prevent breast cancer, Arimidex, can significantly reduce the pain of endometriosis when taken daily along with an oral contraceptive, investigators in the U.S. report.

Endometriosis is an often-painful condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus is found elsewhere in the abdomen. Current treatments for endometriosis are ineffective for many women or have dangerous side effects, Dr. Serdar E. Bulun, from Northwestern University in Chicago, and his associates note in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility.

Arimidex inhibits an enzyme, aromatase, involved in estrogen synthesis, and it was recently found that high levels of aromatase are expressed in endometrial tissue of women with endometriosis.

Bulun's group theorized that Arimidex (generic name, anastrozole) would block aromatase from producing estrogen in the endometrial tissue. An oral contraceptive would prevent the osteoporosis associated with aromatase inhibitor drugs.

In their study the investigators treated 18 women, who had failed at least two other treatments for endometriosis, with anastrozole and the Alesse oral contraceptive daily for 6 months.

Fourteen of the 15 women who completed the study experienced significant reductions in pelvic pain. By the end of the first month, the average pain score on a 10-point visual scale fell from 8.70 to 6.20, and by the end of 6 months it was 3.20.

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