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EllaOne - New Emergency Contraception Pill


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

A newly approved morning-after pill offers more protection against unwanted pregnancy than any other medication, claim medical experts.

According to researchers, this new, recently licensed type of emergency contraception, called EllaOne (ulipristal acetate), is effective up to five days after unprotected sexual intercourse and may do a better job when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancies than the widely used pill levonorgestrel, which is effective for just three days after unprotected intercourse.

Scientists have decided to conduct a large study where they set to compare the two types of emergency contraception: ulipristal acetate and levonorgestrel. They also performed a meta-analysis, in which they merged the findings from this new study with those from a previous research in order to find out what conclusions could be drawn from this larger body of research.

The new study involved 2,221 female participants with the ages between 16 and 36 years, who received emergency contraception pills within three to five days of having unprotected intercourse. Half of the women were given levonorgestrel and half were given ulipristal acetate. The investigators then followed up with the women to find out whether they had become pregnant or not. The results revealed that:

  • Among women treated within three days of having unprotected intercourse, 15 of the 844 women in the EllaOne group (1.8 per cent) had become pregnant, when compared with 22 of the 852 women in the group that was taking levonorgestrel (2.6 per cent).

  • Among a smaller group of study participants who were taking the EllaOne pill within three to five days of having unprotected intercourse, none of the 97 women had become pregnant, compared with 3 of the 106 women who received levonorgestrel.

When finally the researchers merged these results with those from the previous study, they found once again that ulipristal acetate worked better than levonorgestrel in preventing unwanted pregnancies. The ulipristal acetate tablet appeared to prevent up to two-thirds of pregnancies if taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse and up to 50 per cent within five days of having unprotected sex. The regular morning-after pill prevented 60 per cent of pregnancies when used within 72 hours.

According to Dr. Jill Maura Rabin, head of urogynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, the new tablet works differently from the current morning after pill levonorgestrel, also known as Plan B, in that it delays the release of an egg rather than destroying an already implanted embryo. "It makes the lining of the uterus hostile to implantation," explained Dr. Rabin, adding that "nothing that I have read indicates that it would do anything to an established pregnancy." Plan B contains synthetic progesterone and mimics the work of the natural hormone, interfering with ovulation in the early stages of the egg's development.

The EllaOne pill, launched in Britain in October last year, is now available only by prescription. Experts believe that within 2 to 3 years the pill could be available over the counter from chemists, like the current morning-after pill.

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