Wednesday, June 9, 2010

FDA Considers a New Emergency Contraceptive

The FDA’s Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health will meet on June 17th to discuss whether or not to approve a new emergency contraceptive named ellaOne®. Studies have shown ellaOne® to be more effective than Plan B®, the only other emergency contraceptive on the U.S. market. Although Plan B® can help prevent pregnancy if taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure, it is more effective the sooner it is taken. In comparison, ellaOne® is consistently effective within a 5 day period after sex. A recent MSNBC article reported that “women who took ellaOne® within five days after sex almost halved their chances of becoming pregnant compared to women who took Plan B®.”

Not surprisingly, anti-choice advocates are up in arms about the introduction of a new emergency contraceptive. Anti-choicers are using the same old arguments they used when the FDA was considering approving Plan B® for over-the-counter status- it will cause girls to become more sexually promiscuous. A LifeNews article even goes so far as to state that ellaOne® “causes abortions.” These claims are false and completely unsupported. A report from the World Health Organization notes that several studies have shown that providing access to EC “does not increase sexual or contraceptive risk-taking behavior.” Further, neither Plan B® nor ellaOne® affect or harm an established pregnancy. Anti-choice advocates continue to use these tired arguments as a means to hinder women’s reproductive freedom.

This new “Plan C” is currently available in 21 European countries. Hopefully the U.S. will be the next addition to this list! One serious down side is that researchers estimate that ellaOne® will cost three times the amount of Plan B®, which is already more than many women can afford (ranging between $30-$60). The approval of ellaOne® will mean very little to most women if it is not affordable.

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