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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Levonorgestrel implants (Norplant II) for male contraception clinical trials: combination with transdermal and injectable testosterone.

Recent studies demonstrate that combinations of androgens and progestagens are highly effective in the suppression of spermatogenesis in normal volunteers. To test whether progestagen and androgen delivery systems designed to produce steady serum levels will be as effective as other androgen plus progestagen combinations, we compared Norplant II and testosterone (T) transdermal patch to T patch alone on the suppression of spermatogenesis in normal men. Thirty-nine healthy male volunteers (age, 20-45 yr) were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Group 1 (n = 19) received two transdermal T patches daily (Testoderm TTS, each patch designed to deliver about 5 mg/d T) alone, and group 2 (n = 20) received combined Norplant II [Jadelle, four capsules delivering approximately 160 microg/d levonorgestrel (LNG)] plus T patch. Neither of these regimens were very effective, with suppression of spermatogenesis to severe oligozoospermia occurring in less than 60% of subjects. We then expanded the study to include two more groups to determine whether T patch or Norplant II was the main factor causing the inadequate suppression of spermatogenesis. Another 29 subjects were randomized to one of two groups. Group 3 (n = 15) received oral LNG (125 microg/d) plus T patch, and group 4 (n = 14) received Norplant II plus T enanthate (TE) injection (100 mg/wk i.m.). After a pretreatment phase of 4 wk, all subjects received treatment for 24 wk, followed by a recovery period of 12-24 wk. Steady-state serum LNG levels (800-1200 pmol/liter) were achieved from wk 3-24 after Norplant II insertion and decreased rapidly after the removal of the implants at wk 24. Trough serum LNG levels after oral LNG administration were at a comparable range (940-1300 pmol/liter). Azoospermia was achieved in 24%, 35%, 33%, and 93%, and severe oligozoospermia (<1 x 10(6)/ml) developed in 24%, 60%, 42%, and 100% of the subjects in groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively, during treatment phase. All subjects in the Norplant II plus TE groups had persistent sperm concentrations less than 3 x 10(6)/ml from wk 12 until the end of treatment. Concomitant with the marked suppression of spermatogenesis in the Norplant II plus TE group, serum FSH and LH levels were most decreased in this group compared with all other groups. In the T patch-only group, serum SHBG was not suppressed, and total serum T was higher than baseline levels. In the other three groups administered progestagens, serum SHBGs were significantly suppressed, and serum total T remained similar to baseline levels. Serum free T levels were not changed in any group. Except for a suppression of serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, there was no significant change in weight, hematocrit, clinical chemistry, or prostate-specific antigen levels in any of the treatment groups. Although more efficacious than T patch alone, Norplant II or oral LNG plus T patch was not as effective in suppressing spermatogenesis to severe oligo- or azoospermia as in previous reports using oral LNG plus TE. This relative lesser efficacy occurred despite the achievement of serum LNG levels by Norplant II that were equivalent to those reported after administration of oral LNG. Substituting the transdermal T delivery system with TE injections resulted in very effective suppression of sperm output. The difference in spermatogenesis suppression of these combined regimens is likely due to less T delivered by the transdermal patch compared with the TE weekly injections. We conclude that Norplant II implants plus TE 100 mg/wk were very efficient in suppressing spermatogenesis to a level acceptable for contraceptive efficacy. This study demonstrates that the dose or route of administration of androgens is critical for sperm suppression in combined androgen-progestagen regimens for hormonal male contraception.[1]


  1. Levonorgestrel implants (Norplant II) for male contraception clinical trials: combination with transdermal and injectable testosterone. Gonzalo, I.T., Swerdloff, R.S., Nelson, A.L., Clevenger, B., Garcia, R., Berman, N., Wang, C. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (2002) [Pubmed]
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