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All about: Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol

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Generic Name: Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol (des-oh-JES-trel/ETH-in-il ess-trah-DYE-ole)
Brand Name: Examples include Desogen and Ortho-Cept

Cigarette smoking while taking Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol increases the risk of serious heart problems. The risk increases with age (over 35 years of age) and with heavy smoking (15 or more cigarettes per day). Patients who use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol are strongly advised not to smoke.


Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol is used for:

Preventing pregnancy. It may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.

Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol is an estrogen/progestin combination. It works by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries and thereby preventing pregnancy.

Do NOT use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol if:

  • you are allergic to any ingredient in Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol
  • you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant
  • you have blood clots in the legs, lungs, or eyes; or a history of heart attack, chest pain, or stroke
  • you have known or suspected breast cancer or cancer of the lining of the uterus, cervix, or vagina, or have had vaginal bleeding of unknown causes
  • you have a liver tumor or active liver disease, or a history of yellowing of the eyes or skin during pregnancy or previous birth control use
  • you have headaches with neurological symptoms or will be on bed rest for a long period following surgery

Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.

Before using Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol :

Some medical conditions may interact with Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . Tell your health care provider if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:

  • if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding
  • if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
  • if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances
  • if you have high blood pressure; high cholesterol, triglycerides, or calcium levels; have pancreatitis or gallbladder problems; or are obese
  • if you have breast nodules, fibrocystic disease of the breast, an abnormal breast x-ray or mammogram, endometriosis or endometrial carcinomas, uterine fibroids, or irregular or scanty menstrual periods
  • if you have diabetes, headaches, migraine headaches, epilepsy, or a history of mental depression
  • if you are having surgery
  • if you are a heavy smoker (15 or more cigarettes per day), especially if you are older than 35 years of age

Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following:

  • Azole antifungals (eg, itraconazole), aprepitant, bosentan, barbiturates (eg, phenobarbital), carbamazepine, felbamate, griseofulvin, HIV protease inhibitors (eg, ritonavir), hydantoins (eg, phenytoin), modafinil, nevirapine, penicillins (eg, amoxicillin), rifampin, St. John's wort, tetracyclines (eg, doxycycline), topiramate, and troglitazone because they may decrease the effectiveness of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . Alternative forms of birth control are strongly recommended when taking any of these medicines along with this birth control medicine.
  • Beta-blockers (eg, atenolol), selegiline, theophyllines (eg, aminophylline), and troleandomycin because the risk of their side effects may be increased by Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Lamotrigine because its effectiveness may be decreased by Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol

This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.

How to use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol :

Use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.

  • Take Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol by mouth with or without food.
  • To achieve maximum effectiveness of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol , it must be taken every day (every 24 hours) and at the same time each day.
  • Remember to take all of the pills in the pack. Do not skip any doses.
  • Be sure to have an extra full pack of this medication available at all times.
  • If you miss 1 dose of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol , take it as soon as you remember. Take your next dose at the regular time. This means you may take 2 doses on the same day. You do not need to use a backup method of birth control if you only miss 1 pill. If you miss more than 1 active dose of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol , read the extra patient information leaflet that comes with Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol or contact you doctor for instructions. You must use a backup method of birth control if you miss more than 1 active dose of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . If you are not sure about how to handle missed doses, use an extra from of birth control (eg, condoms) and talk with your doctor.

Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol .

Important safety information:

  • Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol may cause dizziness or changes in vision. These effects may be worse if you take it with alcohol or certain medicines. Use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol with caution. Do not drive or perform other possibly unsafe tasks until you know how you react to it.
  • If you miss your period during the week of inactive pills, call your doctor immediately. A missed period may indicate that you are pregnant.
  • Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol may cause dark skin patches on your face. Exposure to the sun may make these patches darker. If patches develop, use a sunscreen or protective clothing when exposed to the sun, sunlamps, or tanning booths.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for examining your own breasts, and report any lumps immediately.
  • Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol may interfere with certain lab tests. Be sure your doctor and lab personnel know you are using Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol .
  • If you will be having surgery or will be confined to a chair or bed for a long period of time (such as a long plane flight), notify your doctor 3 to 4 weeks beforehand. Special precautions may need to be taken in these circumstances while you are taking Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol .
  • Bleeding or spotting may occur while taking Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . Do not stop taking Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol if this occurs. If bleeding or spotting continues for more than 7 days or is heavy, contact your doctor.
  • Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, high blood pressure, or similar problems. The risk may be greater if you smoke.
  • Taking certain antibiotics or anticonvulsants while you are using Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol , or vomiting or diarrhea may decrease the effectiveness of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . To prevent pregnancy, use an additional form of birth control (such as condoms, spermicide, diaphragm) until your next period. If you have any questions, contact your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.
  • If you wear contact lenses and you develop problems with them, contact your doctor.
  • Use of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol will not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
  • Lab tests, may be performed while you use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . These tests may be used to monitor your condition or check for side effects. You will need to have follow-up exams at least once per year. Be sure to keep all doctor and lab appointments.
  • Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol should not be used in CHILDREN; safety and effectiveness in children have not been confirmed.
  • PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: Do not use Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol if you are pregnant. Avoid becoming pregnant while you are taking it. If you think you may be pregnant, contact your doctor right away. Continue to use another method of birth control (such as condoms). Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol is found in breast milk. Do not breast-feed while you are taking Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol . Do not take Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol soon after delivery of a baby even if you are not breast-feeding. You should wait 4 weeks after delivery if you are not breast-feeding or 4 weeks after a second trimester abortion.

Possible side effects of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol :

All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome:

Breast tenderness or enlargement; changes in appetite; changes in weight; dizziness; headache; loss of scalp hair; nausea; nervousness; stomach cramps or bloating; vaginal spotting or breakthrough bleeding; vomiting.

Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur:

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); breast lumps; calf/leg pain or swelling; changes in vision; chest pain or heaviness in the chest; coughing up blood; difficulty wearing contact lenses; dark urine or light-colored bowel movements; dizziness or fainting; fever; loss of appetite; missed menstrual period; mood/mental changes; numbness of an arm or leg; persistent or recurrent abnormal vaginal bleeding; severe pain or tenderness in the stomach area; shortness of breath; sleeplessness; slurred speech; sudden severe headache (migraine); sudden shortness of breath; swelling of fingers or ankles; vaginal infection; vomiting; weakness or fatigue; weakness or numbness in the arm or leg; yellowing of the skin or eyes.

This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions or need medical advice about side effects, contact your doctor or health care provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 (1-800-332-1088) or at http://www.fda.gov/medwatch.

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

Contact 1-800-222-1222 (the American Association of Poison Control Centers), your local poison control center ( http://www.aapcc.org/findyour.htm), or emergency room immediately. Symptoms of overdose may include nausea or vomiting; vaginal bleeding.

Proper storage of Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol :

Store Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol at room temperature, below 86 degrees F (30 degrees C). Store away from heat, moisture, and light. Do not store in the bathroom. Keep Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol out of the reach of children and away from pets.

General information:

  • If you have any questions about Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol , please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • Desogestrel/Ethinyl Estradiol is to be used only by the patient for whom it is prescribed. Do not share it with other people.
  • If your symptoms do not improve or if they become worse, check with your doctor.

This information is a summary only. It does not contain all information about this medicine. If you have questions about the medicine you are taking or would like more information, check with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.

Issue Date: September 5, 2007
Database Edition 07.3.1.003
Copyright © 2007 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

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