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Cerelle Vs Cerazette: Are They Really The Same?


Cerelle and Cerazette are two daily progestogen-only pills (POP), also known as mini-pill. In recent years, prescribing Cerazette in the NHS decreased in other brands, including Cerelle. Today I will discuss the reasons for this change and review different aspects of Cerelle vs. Cerazette use.


Cerelle Vs. Cerazette: Are They The Same?

Both contraceptives contain the same active ingredient: Desogestrel (75 micrograms), a female sex hormone (synthetic progestogen). In terms of prescribing, both contraceptives are regarded as the same drug. Although the active ingredient is the same, there are differences in non-active components (the tablet’s core and coating), which reflect both pills’ manufacturing processes. Here is all the information you need to decide whether to buy Cerelle or to buy Cerazette mini pill.

Non-active ingredients



Tablet’s core

Lactose monohydrate, Potato starch, Povidone K-30, Silica, colloidal anhydrous, Stearic acid, all-rac-α-tocopherol


Poly[vinyl alcohol], Titanium dioxide (E171), Macrogol 3000, Talc

Tablet’s core

Silica, colloidal anhydrous, All-rac-α-tocopherol, lactose monohydrate, maize starch, povidone, stearic acid.


Hypromellose, Macrogol 400, Talc, Titanium dioxide (E 171).

Cerelle Vs. Cerazette: How To Take Them?

women taking pill

Both pills are taken in the same way. Always follow the directions of your prescriber.

A box of Cerelle or Cerazette pills comes with three blister blisters, each of which contains 28 mini-pills (note you may be prescribed just one blister = 28 pills).

One tablet is taken daily until the blister pack is finished.

Once one strip is completed, a new one should be started the next day. Read more about initiating the treatment with a progestogen-only pill in the product information leaflet. There is much more information about the treatment with POP, for example switching from a combined pill or other contraception methods to POP and what to do if you ‘miss the pill.’

Cerelle Vs. Cerazette: Common Side Effects

Common side effects may affect 1 in 10 women who take the pill, whereas uncommon side effects may affect 1 in 100 women. Product information leaflets for Cerelle and Cerazette list precisely the same common and uncommon side effects. This, however, does not come as a surprise since one of the requirements for licensing of generic medication is to provide the same products information leaflet as the branded drug’s leaflet.

Common side effects



– mood altered,

– decreased sexual drive (libido),

– depressed mood,

– headache,

– nausea,

– acne,

– breast pain,

– irregular or no menstruation,

– increased body weight.

– mood altered,

– decreased sexual drive (libido)

– depressed mood

– headache

– nausea

– acne

– breast pain

– irregular or no menstruation

– increased body weight

Uncommon side effects

– infection of the vagina,

– difficulties in wearing contact lenses,

– vomiting,

– hair loss,

– painful menstruation,

– ovarian cyst,

– tiredness.

– infection of the vagina

– difficulties in wearing contact lenses

– vomiting

– hair loss

– painful menstruation,

– ovarian cyst

– tiredness

Source: *Cerelle product information leaflet, **Cerazette product information leaflet

The prescribing information for the last 12 months clearly shows that Cerelle is a more popular contraceptive pill:

Contraceptive Items prescribed*

Cost to NHS


579,308 2,842,571
Cerazette 191,467


* Last 12 months (Feb ’20—Jan ’21), brand-issued prescriptions. Source: OpenPrescribing.net

One clear difference between Cerelle and Cerazette is the total cost for prescribing. Cerazette is almost three times more expensive to the NHS than Cerelle. The price difference between Cerelle and Cerazette is the main driver for defining.

I Used To Be Prescribed Cerazette, But Not Anymore. Why?

Before December 2015, Cerazette was protected by a patent, which gave producers of this pill exclusive rights of supply of desogestrel in the UK and other markets. As with other drugs, once a patent expires, other manufacturers produce generic or new brands of the same pill (desogestrel). New generic drugs are usually cheaper than original patent medicine; therefore, a switch in prescribing follows the NHS. Patients may be informed by the prescriber during the consultation or with an additional note present on the prescription when a switch happens.

Can I Still Request A Doctor To Prescribe Cerazette?

Patients may ask the doctor for Cerazette to be prescribed; however, this request may be denied.

Can I Ask The Pharmacy To Dispense Cerazette Instead Of Cerelle?

When a drug is prescribed by its brand, for example, Cerelle, a pharmacy almost with certainty will not dispense another brand on that prescription. Patients would be referred back to their GP and asked to get another prescription should they wish to have another brand of pill dispensed.

When a patient may ask a pharmacy to dispense a specific Desogestrel brand, it is unlikely that a pharmacy would dispense Cerazette on a generic Desogestrel prescription because of the price difference between both pills. The pharmacy would make a loss if Cerazette were issued on a generically written prescription (desogestrel tablets) unless a special agreement (deal) is in place for Cerazette to be a default desogestrel brand (not very common).

How Can I Get Cerazette Pill? Can I Buy Cerazette?

Women who wish to use the Cerazette contraceptive pill have another choice of buying it online from registered pharmacies as a part of a private service. Almost all contraceptive pills are free (except Dianette for acne). Women who use a private service to buy a contraceptive pill have to cover the cost of medication supplied and other additional costs, such as consultation fees or prescription fees.

A total price usually includes all of those charges to make buying the pill online simple. There are other ways of getting medicines on private prescriptions. Buying the contraceptive pill online is straightforward and usually involves a patient completing a health questionnaire reviewed by the doctor or another qualified prescriber. Once everything is approved, the contraceptive of the patient’s choice is delivered to the home address. Some pharmacies, like Lloyds, offer Online Doctor services with the possibility of medication collection from any Lloyds Pharmacy.

Are Cerelle And Cerazette Equally Effective?

A progestogen-only pill is an effective method of contraception. When used perfectly (taking the pill simultaneously, every day), 0.3% of women will get pregnant within the first year of use due to ‘method failure’ (NICE, 2021). When used typically, 9% of women will get pregnant in the first year of contraceptive use because of method or patient failure (ibid). Some patients may believe that branded medicine is better than generic medication, as with other drugs. Generic medicines are usually much cheaper because they do not go through the same marketing authorization process.

For example, testing in animals or humans (clinical trials) is limited for a generic medication to be authorized. Generic medicines must go through bioequivalence studies to show that generic medicine produces the same amount of active drugs in the body. Bioequivalent studies may involve humans or animals (EMA, 2012).

However, the process of approval is still stringent. Without going into exact details, some of the essential requirements for the generic medicine to be authorized are: 

  • Generic medicine must have the same active ingredient (for Cerelle and Cerazette, it is desogestrel). This, of course, needs to be supported with evidence.
  • The generic and branded medicine is of the same strength; for example, each Cerelle and Cerazette tablet contains 75 microgram desogestrel.
  • Inactive ingredients must be acceptable but do not need to be the same between branded and generic drugs (this is the case between Cerelle and Cerazette)
  • The manufacturing process is of equal standards.

Do Generic, And Branded Drugs Produce Exactly The Same Effect?

An extensive research study looked at bioequivalent information from 2070 studies over 12 years. This study found a slight difference in absorption of the drug into the body (‘release’ of the drug into the body). This difference was found to be around 3.5%, with some generic medicines being absorbed more and less than branded drugs (Davit et al., 2009).

Alternative Progesterone-Only Methods Of Contraception

A few more options exist for women who seek or have been recommended progestogen-only contraceptives by a doctor. These are (NICE, 2019): 

  • Other progesterone-only pills (levonorgestrel, norethisterone)
  • The progestogen-only implant, and
  • The progestogen-only injectable.


Both Cerelle and Cerazette are regarded as contraceptive pills, which are equally effective. A difference in both pills’ inactive ingredients is noticeable;

However, this is the usual case with many other generic and branded drugs. Although some differences in the body’s desogestrel availability may happen clinically, this difference is irrelevant.

Generic drugs save the health care system (NHS and other organizations worldwide) a huge amount of money, allowing the resources (money) to be used elsewhere. What is your experience with Cerelle or Cerazette? Have you been switched from Cerelle to Cerazette? What (if any) impact did it have on your treatment?

Quick FAQ

Cerazette's dependability is questionable?
Cerazette can prevent pregnancy up to 99 percent of the time if used appropriately.
Cerelle, how long does it take you to go to work?
You will be protected from pregnancy immediately if you start taking Cerelle on days 1-5 of your period.
Is it possible to gain weight after stopping Cerazette?
Although many of the pill's 'drawbacks' have been refuted – a 2011 Swedish research concluded that it does not promote weight gain directly.

Davit BM, Nwakama PE, Buehler GJ, Conner DP, Haidar SH, Patel DT, Yang Y, Yu LX, Woodcock J (2009). Comparing generic and innovator drugs: a review of 12 years of bioequivalence data from the United States Food and Drug Administration. Ann Pharmacother. 2009 Oct;43(10):1583-97. doi: 10.1345/aph.1M141. Epub 2009 Sep 23. PMID: 19776300. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1345/aph.1m141 Accessed on 24/03/21

Meredith, P.A., 1996. Generic drugs. Drug Safety15(4), pp.233-242. FDA (2021). Generic Drugs: Questions & Answers. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00002018-199615040-00001 Accessed on 24/03/2021

Graham, C.A., Ramos, R., Bancroft, J., Maglaya, C., and Farley, T.M., 1995. The effects of steroidal contraceptives on the well-being and sexuality of women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, two-center study of combined and progestogen-only methods. Contraception52(6), pp.363-369. NICE (2019). Contraception - progestogen-only methods. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/
Accessed on 24/03/2021