'Morning-after' contraceptive pill may be ineffective for heavier women

Health -

A European company recently announced that one of its emergency contraceptives stopped working for women over 176 pounds.

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CC BY-ND WikiCommons
CC BY-ND WikiCommons

European drug maker HR Pharma announced Nov. 25 that its emergency contraceptive (EC) pill Norlevo, which shares the same active ingredient with the Plan B pill, loses its effectiveness for women over 165 pounds and becomes completely ineffective for women over 176 pounds.

The news has prompted the FDA to review whether U.S. drug manufacturers need to relabel their EC pills accordingly. When Plan B was first approved by the FDA, it did not include assessments for the patient's weight. Plan B is the only EC available to all women in the U.S. without a prescription.

The issue of reduced or lost effectiveness had been discovered accidentally in a separate study from 2011, which found that obese women were over three times more likely to get pregnant after using EC as women with normal BMIs.

"I don't know that the word is really out there enough yet, and that really concerns me, because this can cost women $50 a pop to take this medication, and then it doesn't work and then they're pregnant." Linda Prine, Reproductive Health Access Project medical director

Prine said makers of both Plan B and generic versions that also use the ingredient levonorgestrel should be made to include labels to warn obese and overweight women of pregnancy risks.

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