Comment & Reviews
launches new Emergency Contraceptive Pill
By Ellie Lee
A new Emergency Contraceptive Pill was launched today by Schering
Health care Ltd. Called Levonelle-2, the new ECP should have
a higher success rate and reduced side-effects.
Schering already makes a 'combination'emergency contraceptive
pill, PC4. This ECP combines the two hormones oestrogen and
progestogen. Levonelle-2 is a single-hormone product, and
so should have less side-effects like vomiting and sickness,
say Schering. Levonelle-2 also involves only two pills unlike
the previous four, one to be taken immediately and the second
12 hours later.
Predictably, opposition to Levonelle-2 was voiced by 'pro-family'
campaigners. Valerie Riches of Family and Youth Concern said:
'These emergency contraceptives promote a lack of meaningful
relationships in the young and promote promiscuity and will
cause the spread of more sexually transmitted diseases.' Mrs
Riches dismissed claims that Levonelle-2 was safer for women
as a 'false argument'. She added:'The only way to stop unwanted
pregnancies is to teach the younger people the need to have
timely and protected sexual intercourse in loving relationships.'
In contrast, medical professionals and those involved with
providing contraceptive services to women welcomed the new
ECP. Diana Mansour, consultant in community gynaecology and
reproductive healthcare at Newcastle General Hospital said:
'Today's launch is a very welcome one as we can now offer
women a more reliable emergency contraceptive that causes
less nausea and vomiting and is much simpler to take than
the existing oral method.' BPAS, Britain's largest provider
of abortion care also welcomed the introduction of Levonelle
For the time being, Levonelle 2 will only be available on
prescription. However, many voices have been calling for the
introduction of over-the-counter provision of ECP's in pharmacists.
Ann Furedi, director of communications said: 'There was a
clinical consensus that the old combined emergency contraceptive
pill could safely be provided without prescription. Levonelle
2 is even safer and so pharmacy provision of emergency contraception
has never made more sense. Dr Jenny Tonge, MP for Richmond
Park and a former family planning doctor commented: 'We must
get the Government to allow women to control their own lives
and be able to obtain these emergency contraceptive pills
immediately after unprotected sex, so that the level of unwanted
pregnancies in this country can be reduced. I hope very much
that the new pill will soon be licensed to be dispensed by
local pharmacists, over the counter.' Toni Belfield, speaking
for the fpa also backed plans to make the emergency contraceptive
pill available in pharmacies. She said: 'We believe that increasing
access to EC through pharmacies will help prevent unplanned
pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions.'
Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Polly Toynbee argued: 'This
new progestogen-only pill has no side effects, no nausea and
is no stronger than the contraceptive pills women used to
take every day....there is no medical reason why a woman shouldn't
take one frequently. There is no reason why any woman shouldn't
keep one at home in case of emergency. No reason why women
of any age shouldn't buy them over the counter or from slot
machines - like condoms.'
Support was also forthcoming from the Royal Pharmaceutical
Society of Great Britain for this kind of provision of ECPs.
Christine Glover, President of the Society said: 'We welcome
the availability on prescription of the first progestogen-only
emergency contraceptive, which we are confident will make
an important contribution to the prevention of unplanned pregnancy.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is working now to ensure
that pharmacists have the training and information they need
to supply emergency contraception without a prescription in
future. We know that our profession wants to be involved in
the important public health issue of sexual health and contraceptive
care. Our Code of Ethics allows pharmacists to follow their
own conscience in such matters, whilst ensuring that patients
have access to pharmaceutical services.'
The Guardian, 2 February 2000
Daily Telegraph, 2 February 2000
PA NewsFile, 2 February 2000
BBC News on-line, 2 February 2000