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New emergency contraception option for women PDF Print Email


In a study welcomed by the British Preganancy Advosory Service, Scottish researchers found that ulipristal acetate (ellaOne) worked well

after the three-day limit of the most commonly used drug, levonorgestrel and cut the risk of preganancy almost by half (levonellele available from pharmacies, either with a prescription, or sold directly to over-16s). At present ulipristal - unlike levonorgestrel - is only available with a prescription.

Emergency contraception uses hormones to either prevent the release of an egg by the ovary in the hours after
sex, or stop it implanting into the the womb. A study by specialists working for NHS Lothian tested the effectiveness of levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate (which was licensed for use last year) used a sample of more than 1,600 women from the UK, Ireland and the USA.
A total of 2.6% of the levonorgestrel group became pregnant despite taking the drug, compared with 1.8% in the
ulipristal group. In a much smaller group of women who received emergency contraception more than three days after sex,
there were no pregnancies among women who had taken ulipristal compared with three pregnancies among those taking
levonorgestrel. The levels of side effects were roughly the same in both two drugs.

However, researchers said that the newer drug cannot be sold 'over-the-counter' at pharmacies because it did not yet
have the established safety record of levonorgestrel. Ann Furedi of the British Preganancy Advosory Service said, "Different hormones are involved to the ones traditionally used in contraception, so it may be that these will prove to have other contraceptive uses in future.
"However, accessibility is key to the uptake of any time-sensitive medication and since this pill is not currently  available over-the-counter and is significantly more expensive to buy than the traditional 'morning after pill, it may be that many women who could benefit from it are not able to access it."