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New emergency contraception pill works for five days

Tuesday February 2nd, 2010

A new emergency contraception pill may prevent more pregnancies than its widely-used alternative - and works for up to five days, researchers have reported.

A report, published in The Lancet, suggests that ulipristal acetate (UA) can be taken up to five days after sexual intercourse, compared with three for levonorgestrel, and it also prevents more unwanted pregnancies.

Dr Anna Glasier, of NHS Lothian, Edinburgh, led a study that combined a trial in the UK, Ireland and the USA with results from a previous study.

A total of 2,221 women, who visited a participating family planning clinic within five days of sexual intercourse, took part in the randomised trial and were given either UA or levonorgestrel. They were not told which pill they had received and received a follow-up five days after their next period was due.

Researchers analysed the data from 1,694 women who had initially enrolled of whom 844 in the UA group and 852 in the levonorgestrel group received emergency contraception within three days of sexual intercourse.

There were 15 pregnancies in the UA group and 22 in the levonorgestrel group. In 203 women who received emergency contraception between three and five days after sexual intercourse, there were three pregnancies, all in the levonorgestrel group.

Combination of data from the two studies showed that UA almost halved the risk of becoming pregnant compared to levonorgestrel in women who received emergency contraception within five days after sexual intercourse.

If emergency contraception was used within 24 hours of sexual intercourse (when one-third of participants in the study presented for emergency contraception), the risk of pregnancy was reduced by almost two-thirds compared to levonorgestrel.

The authors conclude: "Despite the issues around health-care service delivery, ulipristal acetate provides women and health-care providers with an alternative choice for emergency contraception that can be used up to five days after unprotected sexual intercourse."

The Lancet on-line January 30 2010

Tags: North America | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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