New morning-after pill sparks abortion row
Published 29/01/2010 | 05:00
A NEW morning-after pill that can stop women becoming pregnant for almost a week after unprotected sex has prompted a row over its alleged function as an abortion pill.
The drug, ulipristal acetate (UA), is effective up to five days after sex, compared with the three-day window offered by the conventional emergency pill.
The pill, which was trialled in Ireland, was licensed in Europe in May last year but is not yet licensed here. The new medication is three times as expensive as the regular drug, levonorgestrel.
Anti-abortion campaigners have called the new drug an "abortion pill" and said it would mask the number of women terminating unwanted pregnancies.
Research published in the UK medical journal 'The Lancet' showed it more than halved the rate of pregnancy compared with levonorgestrel.
Scotland-based doctors combined findings from their own trial with data from an earlier study. Women attending clinics in Britain, Ireland and the US seeking emergency contraception within five days of unprotected sex were randomly given one of the two pills.
Among the 1,694 women, there were 15 pregnancies in the group given UA and 22 among the levonorgestrel group.
Three out of 203 women who asked for the emergency pill between three and five days after sex became pregnant. All of them had taken levonorgestrel.
The earlier trial involved more than 1,500 women who were either given UA or levonorgestrel with a time limit of 72 hours. In this study there were seven pregnancies in the UA group and 13 in the levonorgestrel group.
Combining the results suggested that if emergency contraception was used within 24 hours of unprotected sex, UA reduced the risk of pregnancy by almost two thirds compared with levonorgestrel.
In the trial, the most serious side effect found to be associated with UA was dizziness.
Chief executive of the Well Woman Centre Alison Begas confirmed to the Irish Independent last night that she was aware of the pill but said it was not yet licensed here.
Ann Furedi of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), said the new pill was an exciting development.
However, Josephine Quintavalle, of the ProLife Alliance, a campaign group against abortion, said: "Five days is the time it takes for the egg to travel down the fallopian tubes where it is fertilised... This is like an abortion pill."