Binds to the progesterone and estrogen receptors. Target cells include the female reproductive tract, the mammary gland, the hypothalamus, and the pituitary. Once bound to the receptor, progestins like levonorgestrel will slow the frequency of release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus and blunt the pre-ovulatory LH (luteinizing hormone) surge.
At low doses, levonorgestrel is used in monophasic and triphasic formulations of combined oral contraceptive pills, with available monophasic doses ranging from 100–250 µg, and triphasic doses of 50 µg/75 µg/125 µg. It is combined with the estrogen ethinylestradiol in these formulations.
At very low daily dose of 30 µg, levonorgestrel is used in some progestogen-only pill formulations.
Levonorgestrel is the active ingredient in a number of intrauterine devices including Mirena and Skyla. It is also the active ingredient in the birth control implants Norplant and Jadelle.
Emergency birth control
Levonorgestrel is used in emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs), both in a combined Yuzpe regimen which includes estrogen, and as a levonorgestrel-only method. The levonorgestrel-only method uses levonorgestrel 1.5 mg (as a single dose or as two 0.75 mg doses 12 hours apart) taken within 3 days of unprotected sex, with one study indicating that beginning as late as 120 hours (5 days) after intercourse could be effective.
The primary mechanism of action of levonorgestrel as a progestogen-only emergency contraceptive pill is, according to International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), to prevent fertilization by inhibition of ovulation and thickening of cervical mucus. FIGO has stated that: "review of the evidence suggests that LNG [levonorgestreol] ECPs cannot prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Language on implantation should not be included in LNG ECP product labeling." In November 2013, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved a change to the label saying it cannot prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.
Other studies still find the evidence to be unclear. While it is unlikely that emergency contraception affects implantation it is impossible to completely exclude the possibility of post-fertilization effect.
In November 2013, the EMA also approved a change to the label for HRA Pharma's NorLevo saying: "In clinical trials, contraceptive efficacy was reduced in women weighing 75 kg [165 pounds] or more, and levonorgestrel was not effective in women who weighed more than 80 kg [176 pounds]." In November 2013 and January 2014, the FDA and the EMA said they were reviewing whether increased weight and body mass index (BMI) reduce the efficacy of emergency contraceptives.
Levonorgestrel is used in combination with an estrogen in menopausal hormone therapy. It is used under the brand name Klimonorm as a combined oral tablet with estradiol valerate and under the brand name Climara Pro as a combined transdermal patch with estradiol.
Levonorgestrel is available alone in emergency
contraceptive pills and progestogen-only pills, in combination
with ethinylestradiol in birth control pills, in combination
with estradiol valerate in oral tablets for use
in menopausal hormone therapy, in combination with estradiol in
a transdermal patch for use in menopausal hormone therapy, alone as
an intrauterine device for use in hormonal birth control, and
alone as a subcutaneous birth control implant.
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
Incidence not known
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
Other side effects
not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects,
check with your healthcare professional.
The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.
The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.
Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking this medicine, it is especially important that your healthcare professional know if you are taking any of the medicines listed below. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using this medicine with any of the following medicines is not recommended. Your doctor may decide not to treat you with this medication or change some of the other medicines you take.
Using this medicine with any of the following medicines is usually not recommended, but may be required in some cases. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Using this medicine with any of the following medicines may cause an increased risk of certain side effects, but using both drugs may be the best treatment for you. If both medicines are prescribed together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use one or both of the medicines.
Certain medicines should not be used at or around the time of eating food or eating certain types of food since interactions may occur. Using alcohol or tobacco with certain medicines may also cause interactions to occur. The following interactions have been selected on the basis of their potential significance and are not necessarily all-inclusive.
Using this medicine with any of the following may cause an increased risk of certain side effects but may be unavoidable in some cases. If used together, your doctor may change the dose or how often you use this medicine, or give you special instructions about the use of food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Use this medicine exactly as directed by your doctor or follow the instructions on the package. This medicine is for occasional use as emergency birth control. It should not replace your regular birth control method. You may use this medicine at any time during your monthly period.
If you vomit within 2 hours after taking this medicine, call
your doctor right away. Your doctor may prescribe another tablet for you.
In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For this medicine, the following should be considered:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to this medicine or any other medicines. Also tell your health care professional if you have any other types of allergies, such as to foods, dyes, preservatives, or animals. For non-prescription products, read the label or package ingredients carefully.
Appropriate studies performed to date have not demonstrated pediatric-specific problems that would limit the usefulness of levonorgestrel in teenage females. This medicine may be used for birth control in teenage females but is not recommended before the start of menstruation.
Appropriate studies on the relationship of age to the effects of levonorgestrel have not been performed in the geriatric population. This medicine is not indicated for use in elderly women.
Studies in animals or pregnant women have demonstrated positive evidence of fetal abnormalities. This drug should not be used in women who are or may become pregnant because the risk clearly outweighs any possible benefit.
There are no adequate studies in women for determining
infant risk when using this medication during breastfeeding. Weigh the
potential benefits against the potential risks before taking this medication