It may not surprise you to hear that earlier last week, Bayer Pharmaceuticals announced the release of their much anticipated and novel combined oral contraceptive pill, Natazia. With a name that sounds more like a Disney princess than a hormone-controlling drug, don't be surprised if the first image that comes to your mind is that of three or four fit and tanned 20-somethings water dancing in a pool or frolicking through a flowered meadow. Like breakthroughs in the tampon industry, birth control advances make us want to rejoice, do cartwheels on the beach, and paint pretty pictures with bright colors on large art canvases, right? That's what the commercials would have you believe, anyway.
But this time it's different, suggested a Bayer press release. Until now, all combined hormonal birth control methods sold in the United States--pills, the patch, even the ring--have differed only in their progestin components. The estrogen, in all of them, was the same--ethinyl estradiol. The same is not true for various other countries in Europe, who have been using the new, synthetic estrogen found in Natazia since 2009.
All this is about to change. On May 6, 2010 the Food and Drug Administration approved Natazia as the first ever birth control pill to use estradiol valerate in the United States. In combination with the progestin, dienogest, a synthetic progesterone with anti-androgenic (or anti-testosterone) properties, Natazia is expected to best other birth control pills in controlling heavy and prolonged menstrual bleeding.
In a study that gave women either Qlaira (the European version of Natazia) or placebo pills for 90 days, Bayer found that women on the true pill had decreased menstrual bleeding over all. The same could be said however, about a wealth of birth control pills and without closely examining the study in detail, it's difficult to know the pill's true implications on menorrhagia.
One of the main fallacies with the new pill is that researchers neglected to evaluate its efficacy in women with a BMI over 30. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 30-percent of all Americans are obese (defined as a BMI greater than 30).