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MP 5.01.109 Implantable Hormone Pellets

Medical Policy    
Prescription Drug
Original Policy Date
Last Review Status/Date
Local Policy created with literature search/2:2011
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Our medical policies are designed for informational purposes only and are not an authorization, or an explanation of benefits, or a contract. Receipt of benefits is subject to satisfaction of all terms and conditions of the coverage. Medical technology is constantly changing, and we reserve the right to review and update our policies periodically.



This document addresses the use of subcutaneous hormone implants to replace hormones and treat conditions resulting from a decrease in naturally occurring hormones. This document does not address the use of hormone implants for other indications such as  contraception, treatment of cancer or precocious puberty.




Implantable estradiol pellets are considered investigational.  They have been shown to produce unpredictable and fluctuating serum concentrations of estrogen.



Implantable testosterone pellets (Testopel pellets) are considered medically necessary for either of the following indications:

  • Second-line testosterone replacement therapy in males with congenital or acquired endogenous androgen absence or deficiency associated with primary or secondary hypogonadism when neither oral nor intra-muscular testosterone replacement therapy is effective or appropriate; or
  • Treatment of delayed male puberty.

Implantable testosterone pellets are considered investigational for the treatment of symptoms associated with menopause as this use remains unlabeled and unsubstantiated.

Implantable testosterone pellets are also considered investigational for all other indications.



Testosterone is an androgen hormone responsible for normal growth and development of male sex characteristics. In certain medical conditions such as hypogonadism, the endogenous level of testosterone falls below normal levels. Primary hypogonadism includes conditions such as testicular failure due to cryptorchidism, bilateral torsion, orchitis, or vanishing testis syndrome; bilateral orchidectomy; and inborn errors in the biosynthesis of testosterone. Secondary hypogonadism, also called hypogonadotropic hypogonadism includes conditions such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) deficiency or pituitary-hypothalamic injury resulting from tumors, trauma, surgery, or radiation.

Testosterone hormone replacement can be delivered by mouth, intramuscular injection, topically or subcutaneously by testosterone pellets. Testosterone pellets have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of congenital or acquired androgen deficiency as a result of primary or secondary hypogonadism.

Although secondary or tertiary hormonal treatments with androgens are indicated for palliation therapy in post-menopausal women with metastatic breast cancer, subcutaneous testosterone implants are not indicated for these uses and should not be used by females.


Estrogen is a hormone that occurs naturally, or is manufactured as a synthetic steroidal or nonsteroidal compound with estrogenic activity. Estrogen is used to treat moderate to severe symptoms of female menopause. Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) indicates the use of estrogen hormone as a single agent. Estrogen in combination with progestin is called hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

While implantable estradiol pellets have been suggested as treatment for symptoms of menopause, there are no FDA-approved, commercially available formulations of implantable estradiol pellets available in the United States. These formulations of estradiol have been shown to produce unpredictable and fluctuating serum concentrations of estrogen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Fertility and Maternal Health Drugs Advisory Committee unanimously agreed to terminate compassionate investigative new drug (IND) programs for estrogen pellets as a last-resort treatment of menopausal disorder. The Committee noted “the risk of bleeding and infection, the lack of information on release rates, difficulty in reversibility of the drug, increased feasibility of over-dosage of the drug, and increased risk of non-compliance with safety measures [such as] the addition of progestin.”

Several studies (Studd, 1994; Holland, 1995; Wahab, 1997) measured estrogen implant effect on bone density, which provided objective measurement. There have been relatively few studies in which delivery of estrogen replacement therapy using implants was directly compared with other methods of estrogen administration.

There are several randomized controlled studies and uncontrolled prospective clinical trials evaluating subcutaneous HRT. Subcutaneous HRT was compared with placebo and with oral and transdermal therapy. The studies had relatively few subjects considering the large number of women candidates for HRT. None of the studies were completely blinded. Symptom relief was largely based on subjective and participant reported results. These studies could be subject to bias based on placebo effect. Reported problems with subcutaneous HRT therapy include:

  • Problems with pellet removal if the therapy has to be discontinued;
  • Infection, extrusion and/or discomfort at the insertion site;
  • Fluctuating blood levels of estrogen;
  • Dosing is not easily adjusted;
  • Compliance with cyclical progesterone therapy in hysterectomized women; and
  • Cumulative effect of 2-3 times higher estrogen blood levels over several years not seen with the oral route.

HRT for menopause has been the subject of debate.  Additional research is needed to determine the optimal dosage, treatment interval and benefit to risk ratio of hormone replacement therapy as a treatment for menopause. Estrogen compounded with testosterone for subcutaneous HRT is not FDA approved. The published literature does not demonstrate safety and utility in short and long term therapy.


Hormone therapy can be delivered subcutaneously by implantation of the drug in pellet form in the lower abdomen or buttocks. The procedure is done in a physician's office with the use of a local anesthetic and a small incision for insertion. The release of the drug continues over a 3-6 month period, eliminating individual compliance with dosing schedules. Since the drug bypasses the gastrointestinal system and most liver metabolism, bioavailability can be increased. Sustained release can mimic endogenous production achieving therapeutic blood levels.


According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE, 2002), men with decreased testosterone levels may experience a higher incidence of osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, cardiovascular disease and disturbances in mood.

Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer produce estrogen, causing the reproductive system to shut down. The normal aging process is the usual reason for menopause. However, the loss of estrogen production may also be due to the surgical removal of the ovaries or as a result of treatment with chemotherapy.

According to the AACE (2006), although many women are asymptomatic in menopause, other women in the hypoestrogenic state may experience symptoms that may be severe and have a negative impact on quality of life.  Symptoms of estrogen deficiency include hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, and vaginal dryness and discomfort. Hormone replacement therapy goals are to alleviate menopause symptoms, and include estrogen alone or estrogen in combination with testosterone. However, there are currently no implantable hormone pellets approved by the FDA for treatment of symptoms of menopause.


  1. Anderson RA, Wallace AM, Sattar N, et al. Evidence for tissue selectivity of the synthetic androgen 7 alpha-methyl-19-nortestosterone in hypogonadal men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003; 88(6):2784-2793.
  2. Buckler HM, Robertson WR, Wu FC. Which androgen replacement therapy for women? J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998; 83(11): 3920-3924.
  3. del Carmen Cravioto M, Larrea F, Delgado NE, et al. Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of 25-mg estradiol implants in postmenopausal Mexican women. Menopause. 2001; 8(5): 353-360.
  4. File SE, Heard JE, Rymer J. Trough oestradiol levels associated with cognitive impairment in post-menopausal women after 10 years of oestradiol implants. Psychopharmacology. 2002; 161(1): 107-112.
  5. Holland EF, Leather AT, Studd JW. Increase in bone mass of older postmenopausal women with low mineral bone density after one year of percutaneous oestradiol implants. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1995; 102(3):238-242.
  6. Howell S, Shalet S. Testosterone deficiency and replacement. Horm Res. 2001; 56 Suppl 1:86-92.
  7. Kelleher S, Conway AJ, Handelsman DJ. Influence of implantation site and track geometry on the extrusion rate and pharmacology of testosterone implants. Clin Endocrinol. 2001; 55(4):531-536.
  8. Kenemans P, van Unnik GA, Mijatovic V, van der Mooren MJ. Perspectives in hormone replacement therapy. Maturitas. 2001 15; 38 Suppl 1:S41-S48.
  9. Stanczyk FZ, Shoupe D, Nunez V, et al. A randomized comparison of nonoral estradiol delivery in postmenopausal women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1988; 159:1540-1546.
  10. Studd JWW, Holland EFN, Leather AT, Smith RNJ. The dose-response of percutaneous oestradiol implants on the skeletons of postmenopausal women. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1994; 101:787-791.
  11. Studd JWW, Smith RNJ. Oestradiol and testosterone implants. Baillière's Clin Endocrinol Metabol. 1993; 7:203-223.
  12. Suhonen SP, Allonen HO, Lähteenmäki P. Sustained-release estradiol implants and a levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device in hormone replacement therapy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995; 172:562-567.
  13. Templeman C, Quinn D, Hansen R, et al. An audit of oestrogen implant hormone replacement therapy. Aust NZ J Obstet Gynaecol. 1998; 38:455-460.
  14. Vogelvang, TE et al. Neither long-term treatment with raloxifene nor hormone replacement therapy modulate cardiac function in healthy postmenopausal women: Two randomized, placebo-controlled, 2-year studies. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2002; 186(4): 729-736.
  15. Wahab M, Ballard P, Purdie DW, Cooper A, Willson JC. The effect of long-term oestradiol implantation on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women who have undergone hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1997; 104(6):728-731.

Government Agency, Medical Society, and Other Authoritative Publications:

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). AACE medical guidelines for clinical practice for the diagnosis and treatment of menopause. Endocrine Practice. 2006; 12(3): 315-337.

American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. AACE Medical guidelines for clinical practice for the evaluation and treatment of hypogonadism in adult male patients, 2002 update. Endocr Pract. 2002; 8: 439-456.

Websites for additional information:

National Institute on Aging. Menopause. Last update April 20, 2010. Available at: Accessed on July 07, 2010.

National Institutes of Health. Menopausal Hormone Therapy Information. Last reviewed February 17, 2010. Available at: Accessed on July 07, 2010.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Drug Information. Estrogen and Estrogen with Progestin Therapies for Postmenopausal Women. Updated June 22, 2010. Available at: Accessed on July 07, 2010.



Estrogen and Testosterone Subcutaneous Hormone Implants
Hormone Implants
Testosterone Subcutaneous Hormone Implants




CPT 11980 Subcutaneous hormone pellet implantation (implantation of estradiol and/or testosterone pellets beneath the skin)
HCPCS  S0189 Testosterone pellet, 75mg
ICD-9-CM 194.3 Malignant neoplasm of pituitary gland and carniopharyngeal duct
   227.3 Benign neoplasm of pituitary gland and carniopharyngeal duct (pouch)
  253.4 Pituitary hypogonadism 
   257.2 Testicular hypogonadism
   259.0 Delay in sexuarl development and puberty, not elsewhere classified
   604.0 -604.99 Orchitis and epididymitis
   608.20 -608.24 Torsion of testis
   608.3 Atrophy of testis
   626.0 -626.9 Disorders of menstruation and other abnormal bleeding from female genital tract
   627.0 -627.9 Menopausal and postmenopausal disorders
   752.51 -752.52 Undescended and retractile testicle
   V10.43 Personal history of malignant neoplasm of ovary
   V10.47 Personal history of malignant neoplasm of testis
   V45.77 Acquired absence of genital organs (testes)

Policy History

Date Action Reason
02/21/11 Add to Prescription Drug section New policy