Is Microgestin The Same As Junel And Are They Equally Effective?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist compares Microgestin to Junel.

Question

I’ve been taking the pill (Junel Fe) for a year now and recently was switched to Microgestin Fe. I've been told they’re the same medication, just made by different companies. I’ve never missed any active pills so would I still be protected from pregnancy if I was intimate during the placebo week after finishing my first pack of the “new” medication?

Asked by Karina On Nov 18, 2022

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

Published Nov 18, 2022
Last updated Nov 18, 2022

Key points

  • There are several different Microgestin products, and Junel is a generic version of them (i.e., Junel 1/20 is the generic for Microgestin 1/20).
  • Junel and Microgestin are 'therapeutically equivalent' and can be substituted with one another by your pharmacy in most states.
  • While Junel and Microgestin contain the same active ingredients, in the same amounts, they have different inactive ingredients.

Answer

Junel and Microgestin are rated as 'therapeutically equivalent' by the FDA and are substitutable with one another. They contain the same hormones (ethinyl estradiol; norethindrone acetate) in the same amounts. They are both equally effective in preventing pregnancy. The same applies to Junel FE and Microgestin FE (and other strengths of Junel/Microgestin).

I do want to point out here that are a number of different Microgestin products (e.g. Microgestin Fe 1.5/30, Microgestin Fe 1/20), and they all have generic equivalents.

So, when I say that Junel and Microgestin are therapeutically equivalent, I am assuming we are picking the correct brand/generic pair.

Microgestin products include:

  • Microgestin 1/20
  • Microgestin Fe 1/20
  • Microgestin 1.5/30
  • Microgestin Fe 1.5/30

Microgestin Is 'Brand' While Junel Is 'Generic'

Microgestin is the 'brand name' product while Junel is generic.

While, in most situations, a patient will be dispensed the generic product when one is available due to the lower cost, some insurance companies may prefer the brand on their formulary (or your doctor could also specifically prescribe the brand and not allow substitution).

In your question, you don't specify which Junel product you were taking so let's say you were on Junel Fe 1/20. The therapeutically equivalent product would be Microgestin Fe 1/20.

As mentioned, these products have the same active ingredients in the same amounts, so you really shouldn't notice any difference in how they work. They both will protect against unplanned pregnancy to an equal degree.

As long as you have not missed doses and have been taking the pills in a consistent manner, you are at no higher risk of pregnancy...even if you are sexually active during the placebo week. That is perfectly safe. Taking pills in an inconsistent manner is what makes them less effective.

Inactive Ingredients Can Vary Between Brand And Generic Drugs

The last thing I want to point out is even though brand and generic medications, like Junel and Microgestin, are therapeutically equivalent and contain the same active ingredients, the inactive ingredients can be different.

To illustrate this, below I've listed out the ingredients for each product:

Microgestin Fe 1/20

  • Ethinyl Estradiol 0.02 mg
  • Norethindrone Acetate 1 mg
  • Acacia Senegal
  • Confectioners sugar
  • Lactose
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Starch
  • Talc
  • (Iron tablet containing ferrous fumarate 75 mg)

Junel Fe 1/20

  • Ethinyl Estradiol 0.02 mg
  • Norethindrone Acetate 1 mg
  • Acacia Senegal
  • D&C Yellow No. 10
  • Lactose
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Pregelatinized Starch
  • Sucrose
  • (Iron tablet containing ferrous fumarate 75 mg)

This difference in inactive ingredients is why they look different.

Information About Ethinyl Estradiol / Norethindrone Acetate

According to the prescribing information, the two hormones (ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone acetate) are contained in these combination pills and are used to prevent pregnancy. These pills do not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How It Works

Birth control pills mostly work by preventing ovulation by maintaining steady hormone levels in the body. However, other changes to the cervical mucus a lining of the uterus can also help. Changes in cervical mucus can make it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus, and a change in the lining of the uterus would reduce the change of implantation.

Contraindications

Birth control should not be used in women who have:

  • Blood clotting disorders or a history of blood clots
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cerebral vascular disease
  • Known or suspected breast or uterine cancer
  • Undiagnosed abnormal genital bleeding Liver disease, liver cancer, jaundice, or previous jaundice with pill use Known or suspected pregnancy

Warnings

Smoking while taking birth control pills can increase the risk of having cardiovascular side effects (heart attack, stroke, blood clot). Smoking should be avoided. This risk increases with heavy smoking and with age. The risk is significantly higher in women over the age of 35 years.

Potential Side Effects

  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache Spotting and/or breakthrough bleeding or other changes in the menstrual cycle

Other Information

  • Consult your doctor when starting any new medications, over-the-counter medications, or supplements.
  • Birth control pills may interact with: rifampin, anticonvulsants (phenobarbital, phenytoin, carbamazepine), and some antibiotics (penicillins, tetracycline, griseofulvin).
  • If you suspect you might be pregnant, consult a doctor immediately, as this medication may be harmful to a fetus.
  • Consult your doctor immediately if you notice symptoms of an allergic reaction, breast discharge or lumps, pain or swelling or unusual redness in your lower legs, chest pain or tightness, numbness or weakness in arms or legs or on one side of the body, dark urine or pale stool, or yellowing of the skin or eye.

Final Words

Thanks again for your question and let us know if we can be of any further help!

References

  • Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations | Orange Book, FDA
  • Junel FE 1/20 Monograph, DailyMED
  • Microgestin FE Monograph, DailyMED
  • Combined Hormonal Contraceptives, CDC

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication-related questions! Feel free to send him an email at Hello@HelloPharmacist.com! You can also connect with Dr. Brian Staiger on LinkedIn.

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