|EMERGENCY BIRTH CONTROL
Should "morning after" pills be available without a prescription?
in this forum:
Would there be a problem with medications that conflict with emergency contraception pills? What about the religious issues involved with making the decision to take this pill? Is there demographic data on who uses this pilot project.
December 29, 1997
A report on the remarkable changes in reproductive technology .
January 22, 1997
Today marks the 24th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion in Roe V. Wade.
September 19, 1996
The FDA has tentatively approved U.S. sales of the French abortion drug, RU486 .
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of health.
Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH)
The Emergency Contraception Website
A question from Douglas M. Lester of Virginia Beach, VA:
I work in the medical care field and I know that the precautions on over-the-counter medications, and prescription medications for that matter, are frequently ignored. There has to be some mechanism in place to prevent some women from taking several of these large doses of hormone pills over a period of a few days. Also something in place to make sure a woman isn't using this medication as a form of birth control. What can be done to take care of this concern?
Jane Hutchings, Director of the Emergency Contraception Pilot Project, answers:
While the issue of over use of emergency contraception is frequently raised, studies that have addressed this issue have found that women do not rely on emergency contraception as their regular method of birth control. The most widely used emergency contraceptive formulations, containing both estrogen and progestin, cause nausea in 30%-50% of users and vomiting in 15% to 25% of users. Although these and other reported complaints such as breast tenderness, fatigue and headache subside within a day or two, few women would elect to experience these side effects on a regular basis. In fact, 86% of women surveyed who received emergency contraceptive pills directly from a pharmacist in our project had never used emergency contraception before. Over half of the women in the survey (52%) used emergency contraceptive pills because their regular contraceptive method had failed.
Additionally emergency contraceptive pills are about 75% effective at preventing pregnancy which is less effective that most other contraceptive methods and, unlike some other contraceptives, do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. In the pilot project, emergency contraceptive pills are not available over the counter, but are prescribed directly by a pharmacist. This gives the pharmacist an opportunity to counsel women on ongoing contraceptive use and to refer women to a contraceptive provider, as necessary. We feel this contraceptive counseling and referral is a critical role for pharmacists involved in the project.
It is important to note also, however, that repeated use of emergency contraceptive pills is not known to pose a health risk and is not a logical reason to deny women access to this treatment.
Dr. Tom Norris, Associate Dean and Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, answers:
In this project the medications are dispensed by trained pharmacists or physicians. Mr Lester's point is well taken that the proper use and dosage of the drugs is important. By using trained health care professionals to dispense the medications in this project, we are attempting to promote proper usage.