Conference Coverage

Elagolix is effective second-tier treatment for endometriosis-associated dysmenorrhea



Elagolix has emerged as an effective second-tier treatment option for patients with dysmenorrhea attributed to endometriosis, Charles E. Miller, MD, said at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Dr. Charles E. Miller Jeff Craven/MDedge News

Dr. Charles E. Miller

Although clinicians need prior authorization and evidence of treatment failure before prescribing Elagolix, the drug is a viable option as a second-tier treatment for patients with endometriosis-associated dysmenorrhea, said Dr. Miller, director of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “We have a drug that is very effective, that has a very low adverse event profile, and is tolerated by the vast majority of our patients.”

First-line options

NSAIDs are first-line treatment for endometriosis-related dysmenorrhea, with acetaminophen used in cases where NSAIDs are contraindicated or cause side effects such as gastrointestinal issues. Hormonal contraceptives also can be used as first-line treatment, divided into estrogen/progestin and progestin-only options that can be combined. Evidence from the literature has shown oral pills decrease pain, compared with placebo, but the decrease is not dose dependent, said Dr. Miller.

“We also know that if you use it continuously or prolonged, we find that there is going to be greater success with dysmenorrhea, and that ultimately you would use a higher-dose pill because of the greater risk of breakthrough when using a lesser dose in a continuous fashion,” he said. “Obviously if you’re not having menses, you’re not going to have dysmenorrhea.”

Other estrogen/progestin hormonal contraception such as the vaginal ring or transdermal patch also have been shown to decrease dysmenorrhea from endometriosis, with one study showing a reduction from 17% to 6% in moderate to severe dysmenorrhea in patients using the vaginal ring, compared with patients receiving oral contraceptives. In a separate randomized, controlled trial, “dysmenorrhea was more common in patch users, so it doesn’t appear that the patch is quite as effective in terms of reducing dysmenorrhea,” said Dr. Miller (JAMA. 2001 May 9. doi: 10.1001/jama.285.18.2347).

Compared with combination hormone therapy, there has been less research conducted on progestin-only hormone contraceptives on reducing dysmenorrhea from endometriosis. For example, there is little evidence for depot medroxyprogesterone acetate in reducing dysmenorrhea, but rather with it causing amenorrhea; one study showed a 50% amenorrhea rate at 1 year. “The disadvantage, however, in our infertile population is ultimately getting the menses back,” said Dr. Miller.

IUDs using levonorgestrel appear comparable with gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists in reducing endometriosis-related pain; in one study, most women treated with either of these had visual analogue scores of less than 3 at 6 months of treatment. Between 68% and 75% of women with dysmenorrhea who receive an implantable contraceptive device with etonogestrel report decreased pain, and one meta-analysis reported 75% of women had “complete resolution of dysmenorrhea.” Concerning progestin-only pills, they can be used for endometriosis-related dysmenorrhea, but they are “problematic in that there’s a lot of breakthrough bleeding, and often times that is associated with pain,” said Dr. Miller.


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