Oral contraceptive pills, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, or use in combination for treatment of hirsutism: A clinical research center study

Bruce R. Carr, Neil A. Breslau, Carolyn Givens, William Byrd, Cathy Barnett-Hamm, Paul B. Marshburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The effectiveness of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs), GnRH agonist (GnRH- a), and a combination of OCPs and GnRH-a in the treatment of hirsute women was compared and the impact of these treatments on hormonal and Ca metabolism was investigated. Thirty-three women were prospectively enrolled and randomized into three treatment groups (11 in each group). The serum levels of LH, estradiol, testosterone, free testosterone, androstenedione, and 17- hydroxyprogesterone declined in all 3 treatment groups, whereas the inclusion of GnRH-a treatment tended to promote a more rapid decrease in these hormone levels. Total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein, and high density lipoprotein levels remained unchanged. The assessment of hirsutism by the Ferriman-Gallwey score revealed a similar 25% reduction in score by all three treatment groups by 6 months. In addition, no difference was detected between groups with respect to hair diameters and the vellus index. Clinical assessment of hirsutism at 3 months by the patients revealed that the GnRH-a and the OCPs-plus-GnRH-a groups had better responses than the group on OCPs alone, but by 6 months all three groups were similar. The symptoms of hot flashes and vaginal dryness were greatest in subjects treated with GnRH-a alone. Serum Ca, phosphorus, alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, and 2-h fasting and 24-h urinary Ca excretion levels all increased significantly in subjects treated with the GnRH-a alone, whereas a decrement or no changes occurred for these measurement in the other two groups. The estimated Ca balance was unchanged in the OCPs and the OCPs-plus-GnRH-a groups but declined by 90 mg/day from baseline in the GnRH-a-treated women (p ≤ 0.001). Bone density significantly decreased in the lumber spine in women treated with GnRH-a alone, with a less marked decline in the femoral neck. In contrast, women receiving OCPs plus GnRH had increased bone density in the lumbar spine. It is concluded that: 1) clinical measures of hirsutism are not different after 6 months of treatment with OCPs alone, GnRH-a alone, or a combination of the two; 2) the decline in gonadotropins and steroid hormones and improvement in clinical response were more rapid and pronounced when GnRH-a treatment was added to OCP administration; and 3) the negative impact of GnRH-a alone on Ca balance and bone loss limits its usefulness as a single agent for long-term therapy of hirsutism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1169-1178
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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