Risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE): The use of any combined hormonal contraceptive (CHC) increases the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) compared with no use. Products that contain levonorgestrel, norgestimate or norethisterone are associated with the lowest risk of VTE. Other products such as Gveza may have up to twice this level of risk. The decision to use any product other than one with the lowest VTE risk should be taken only after a discussion with the woman to ensure she understands the risk of VTE with Gveza, how her current risk factors influence this risk, and that her VTE risk is highest in the first ever year of use. There is also some evidence that the risk is increased when a CHC is re-started after a break in use of 4 weeks or more.
In women who do not use a CHC and are not pregnant about 2 out of 10,000 will develop a VTE over the period of one year. However, in any individual woman the risk may be far higher, depending on her underlying risk factors (see as follows).
It is estimated1
that out of 10,000 women who use a CHC containing drospirenone, between 9 and 12 women will develop a VTE in one year; this compares with about 62
in women who use a levonorgestrel-containing CHC.
In both cases, the number of VTEs per year is fewer than the number expected during pregnancy or in the postpartum period.
VTE may be fatal in 1-2% of cases.
These incidences were estimated from the totality of the epidemiological study data, using relative risks for the different products compared with levonorgestrel-containing CHCs.
Mid-point of range of 5-7 per 10,000 WY (woman-years), based on a relative risk for CHCs containing levonorgestrel versus non-use of approximately 2.3 to 3.6.
Click on icon to see table/diagram/image
Extremely rarely, thrombosis has been reported to occur in CHC users in other blood vessels, e.g. hepatic, mesenteric, renal or retinal veins and arteries.
The risk of VTE for combined oral contraceptives that contain drospirenone is higher than the risk for levonorgestrel-containing second generation COCs, and may be similar to the risk for desogestrel-containing or gestodene-containing third generation COCs.
Risk factors for VTE: The risk for venous thromboembolic complications in CHC users may increase substantially in a woman with additional risk factors, particularly if there are multiple risk factors (see Table 1).
Gveza is contraindicated if a woman has multiple risk factors that put her at high risk of venous thrombosis (see Contraindications). If a woman has more than one risk factor, it is possible that the increase in risk is greater than the sum of the individual factors - in this case her total risk of VTE should be considered. If the balance of benefits and risks is considered to be negative a CHC should not be prescribed (see Contraindications). (See Table 1.)
Click on icon to see table/diagram/image
There is no consensus about the possible role of varicose veins and superficial thrombophlebitis in the onset or progression of venous thrombosis.
The increased risk of thromboembolism in pregnancy, and particularly the 6 week period of the puerperium, must be considered (for information on "Pregnancy and lactation" see Use in Pregnancy & Lactation).
Symptoms of VTE (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism): In the event of symptoms women should be advised to seek urgent medical attention and to inform the healthcare professional that she is taking a CHC.
Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can include: unilateral swelling of the leg and/or foot or along a vein in the leg; pain or tenderness in the leg which may be felt only when standing or walking; increased warmth in the affected leg; red or discoloured skin on the leg.
Symptoms of pulmonary embolism (PE) can include: sudden onset of unexplained shortness of breath or rapid breathing; sudden coughing which may be associated with haemoptysis; sharp chest pain; severe light headedness or dizziness; rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Some of these symptoms (e.g. "shortness of breath", "coughing") are non-specific and might be misinterpreted as more common or less severe events (e.g. respiratory tract infections).
Other signs of vascular occlusion can include: sudden pain, swelling and slight blue discoloration of an extremity.
If the occlusion occurs in the eye symptoms can range from painless blurring of vision which can progress to loss of vision. Sometimes loss of vision can occur almost immediately.
Risk of arterial thromboembolism (ATE): Epidemiological studies have associated the use of CHCs with an increased risk for arterial thromboembolism (myocardial infarction) or for cerebrovascular accident (e.g. transient ischaemic attack, stroke). Arterial thromboembolic events may be fatal.
Risk factors for ATE: The risk of arterial thromboembolic complications or of a cerebrovascular accident in CHC users increases in women with risk factors (see Table 2). Gveza is contraindicated if a woman has one serious or multiple risk factors for ATE that puts her at high risk of arterial thrombosis (see Contraindications). If a woman has more than one risk factor, it is possible that the increase in risk is greater than the sum of the individual factors - in this case her total risk should be considered. If the balance of benefits and risks is considered to be negative a CHC should not be prescribed (see Contraindications). (See Table 2.)
Click on icon to see table/diagram/image
Symptoms of ATE: In the event of symptoms women should be advised to seek urgent medical attention and to inform the healthcare professional that she is taking a CHC.
Symptoms of a cerebrovascular accident can include: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden, severe or prolonged headache with no known cause; loss of consciousness or fainting with or without seizure.
Temporary symptoms suggest the event is a transient ischaemic attack (TIA).
Symptoms of myocardial infarction (MI) can include: pain, discomfort, pressure, heaviness, sensation of squeezing or fullness in the chest, arm, or below the breastbone; discomfort radiating to the back, jaw, throat, arm, stomach; feeling of being full, having indigestion or choking; sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness; extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath; rapid or irregular heartbeats.
An increased risk of cervical cancer in long-term users of COCs (> 5 years) has been reported in some epidemiological studies, but there continues to be controversy about the extent to which this finding is attributable to the confounding effects of sexual behaviour and other factors such as human papilloma virus (HPV).
A meta-analysis from 54 epidemiological studies reported that there is a slightly increased relative risk (RR = 1.24) of having breast cancer diagnosed in women who are currently using COCs. The excess risk gradually disappears during the course of the 10 years after cessation of COC use. Because breast cancer is rare in women under 40 years of age, the excess number of breast cancer diagnoses in current and recent COC users is small in relation to the overall risk of breast cancer. These studies do not provide evidence for causation. The observed pattern of increased risk may be due to an earlier diagnosis of breast cancer in COC users, the biological effects of COCs or a combination of both. The breast cancers diagnosed in ever-users tend to be less advanced clinically than the tumours diagnosed in never-users.
In rare cases, benign liver tumours, and even more rarely, malignant liver tumours have been reported in users of COCs. In isolated cases, these tumours have led to life-threatening intra-abdominal haemorrhages. A hepatic tumour should be considered in the differential diagnosis when severe upper abdominal pain, liver enlargement or signs of intra-abdominal haemorrhage occur in women taking COCs.
With the use of the higher-dosed COCs (50 μg ethinylestradiol) the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer is reduced. Whether this also applies to lower-dosed COCs remains to be confirmed.
The progestogen component in Gveza is an aldosterone antagonist with potassium sparing properties. In most cases, no increase of potassium levels is to be expected. In a clinical study, however in some patients with mild or moderate renal impairment and concomitant use of potassium-sparing medicinal products serum potassium levels slightly, but not significantly, increased during drospirenone intake. Therefore, it is recommended to check serum potassium during the first treatment cycle in patients presenting with renal insufficiency and a pre-treatment serum potassium in the upper reference range, and particularly during concomitant use of potassium sparing medicinal products. See Interactions.
Women with hypertriglyceridemia, or a family history thereof, may be at an increased risk of pancreatitis when using COCs.
Although small increases in blood pressure have been reported in many women taking COCs, clinically relevant increases are rare. Only in these rare cases an immediate discontinuation of COC use is justified. If, during the use of a COC in preexisting hypertension, constantly elevated blood pressure values or a significant increase in blood pressure do not respond adequately to antihypertensive treatment, the COC must be withdrawn. Where considered appropriate, COC use may be resumed if normotensive values can be achieved with antihypertensive therapy.
The following conditions have been reported to occur or deteriorate with both pregnancy and COC use, but the evidence of an association with COC use is inconclusive: jaundice and/or pruritus related to cholestasis; gallstones; porphyria; systemic lupus erythematosus; haemolytic uremic syndrome; Sydenham's chorea; herpes gestationis; otosclerosis-related hearing loss.
In women with hereditary angioedema exogenous estrogens may induce or exacerbate symptoms of angioedema.
Acute or chronic disturbances of liver function may necessitate the discontinuation of COC use until markers of liver function return to normal. Recurrence of cholestatic jaundice and/or cholestasis-related pruritus which previously occurred during pregnancy or during previous use of sex steroids necessitates the discontinuation of COCs.
Although COCs may have an effect on peripheral insulin resistance and glucose tolerance, there is no evidence for a need to alter the therapeutic regimen in diabetics using low-dose COCs (containing < 0.05 mg ethinylestradiol). However, diabetic women should be carefully observed, particularly in the early stage of COC use.
Worsening of endogenous depression, of epilepsy, of Crohn's disease and of ulcerative colitis has been reported during COC use.
Chloasma may occasionally occur, especially in women with a history of chloasma gravidarum. Women with a tendency to chloasma should avoid exposure to the sun or ultraviolet radiation whilst taking COCs.
This medicinal product contains 62 mg lactose monohydrate per film-coated tablet. Patients with the rare hereditary problems of galactose intolerance, lactose intolerance or glucose-galactose malabsorption should take this preparation.
Medical examination/consultation: Prior to the initiation or reinstitution of Gveza film-coated tablets, a complete medical history (including family history) should be taken and pregnancy must be ruled out. Blood pressure should be measured and a physical examination should be performed, guided by the contra-indications (see Contraindications) and warnings (see Warnings). It is important to draw a woman's attention to the information on venous and arterial thrombosis, including the risk of Gveza compared with other CHCs, the symptoms of VTE and ATE, the known risk factors and what to do in the event of a suspected thrombosis.
The woman should also be instructed to carefully read the user leaflet and to adhere to the advice given. The frequency and nature of examinations should be based on established guidelines of professional practice and be adapted to the individual woman.
Women should be advised that oral contraceptives do not protect against HIV infections (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Reduced efficacy of contraception: The efficacy of COCs may be reduced in the event of e.g. missed tablets (see Dosage & Administration), gastro-intestinal disturbances (see Dosage & Administration) or concomitant medication (see Interactions).
Reduced cycle control: With all COCs, irregular bleeding (spotting or breakthrough bleeding) may occur, especially during the first months of use. Therefore, the evaluation of any irregular bleeding is only meaningful after an adaptation interval of about three cycles.
If bleeding irregularities persist or occur after previously regular cycles, then non-hormonal causes should be considered and adequate diagnostic measures are indicated to exclude malignancy or pregnancy. These may include curettage.
In some women withdrawal bleeding may not occur during the tablet-free interval. If the COC has been taken according to the directions described in Dosage & Administration, it is unlikely that the woman is pregnant. However, if the COC has not been taken according to these directions prior to the first withdrawal bleed or if two withdrawal bleeds are missed, pregnancy must be ruled out before COC use is continued.
Effects on ability to drive and use machines:
No studies on the effects on the ability to drive and use machines have been performed. No effects on ability to drive and use machines have been observed in users of COCs.