Updated: NOVEMBER 5, 2018
Lybrel was a pioneering extended-cycle combination birth control pill. It was the first contraceptive pill designed to supply a daily active hormone dose to stop the user’s period for an entire year. It prevented pregnancy, but like other combination birth control pills, provided no protection against sexually transmitted infections.
While Lybrel has been discontinued by its manufacturer, this contraceptive pill is still available under a raft of generic names including Amethyst, Lutera, and Orsythia.
More About Lybrel
A single pack of Lybrel contained 365 pills, enough for a full year’s dose. Each pill contained 90 micrograms of the progestin levonorgestrel and 20 micrograms of the estrogen ethinyl estradiol.
Lybrel was effective in between 91 and 99.7 percent of cases. These results were comparable to other combination birth control pills. In addition, women on Lybrel said they were less nauseous and had less pre-menstrual and period-related pain than on other contraceptive pills.
The Lybrel pills worked the same as any active combination contraceptive pills, preventing ovulation and altering the cervical mucus and uterine lining so sperm can’t easily reach the uterus and any fertilized egg cannot attach to it. However, all pills in the Lybrel pack are active pills. There was no pill-free or placebo interval, so users who took Lybrel daily did not have the withdrawal bleed or period they do taking other combination contraceptive pills. Since they had a lower dose of hormones than other combination contraceptive pills, some women experienced spotting.
While Lybrel stopped periods, it did not permanently impact users’ fertility. Ninety-nine percent of women regained their normal periods within 90 days of stopping Lybrel.
Lybrel and its generic equivalents should not be taken by women who are pregnant or who have had a baby recently. It’s also unsuitable for people with high blood pressure, heart and liver diseases, blood-clotting disorders, circulation problems, diabetes impacting the eyes or kidneys, severe migraines, unusual vaginal bleeding, and some other medical conditions.
Competition from a range of similar generic drugs placed financial pressure on the makers of Lybrel, who decided to withdraw their product from sale before its 2018 patent expiry date. It was never recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or discontinued because of any safety concerns. In fact, studies showed Lybrel was just as safe as any other combination contraceptive pill.