Induction of ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel metabolism by oxcarbazepine in healthy women

C. Fattore, G. Cipolla, G. Gatti, G. L. Limido, Y. Sturm, C. Bernasconi, E. Perucca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To evaluate the effect of oxcarbazepine (OCBZ) on the pharmacokinetic profile of steroid oral contraceptives. Methods: Twenty-two healthy women aged 18-44 years were recruited, and 16 of them completed the study. By using a randomized double-blind crossover design, each woman was studied in two different menstrual cycles, during which placebo or OCBZ (maintenance dosage, 1,200 mg/day) was given in randomized sequence for 26 consecutive days with a washout of at least one cycle in between. Asteroid oral contraceptive containing 50 μg ethinylestradiol (EE) and 250 μg levonorgestrel (LN) was taken for the first 21 days of each cycle. Plasma concentrations of EE and LN were measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in samples collected at regular intervals on days 21-23 of each cycle. Results: Compared with placebo, areas under the plasma concentration curves (AUC(0-24h), geometric means) decreased by 47% for both EE (from 1,677 to 886 pg · h/ml; p <0.01) and LN (from 137 to 73 ng · h/ml; p <0.01), during OCBZ treatment. Peak plasma EE concentrations decreased from 180 pg/ml during the placebo cycle to 117 pg/ml during the OCBZ cycle (p <0.01), whereas peak plasma LN concentrations decreased from 10.2 to 7.7 ng/ml (p <0.01). The half-lives of EE and LN also decreased from 13.6 to 7.9 h (p <0.01) and from 28.8 to 15.8 h, respectively (p <0.01). Conclusions: OCBZ reduces plasma concentrations of the estrogen and progestagen components of steroid oral contraceptives, presumably by stimulating their CYP3A-mediated metabolism in the liver or gastrointestinal tract or both. Because this may lead to a decreased efficacy of the contraceptive pill, women treated with OCBZ should receive preferentially a high-dosage contraceptive and should be monitored for signs of reduced hormonal cover.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-787
Number of pages5
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Drug interaction
  • Enzyme induction
  • Ethinylestradiol
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Oxcarbazepine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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