The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new emergency contraceptive, Ella or ulipristal acetate, which is effective at preventing pregnancy up to five days after contraceptive failure or unprotected sexual intercourse. In June, a panel of FDA expert medical advisors unanimously agreed that it is safe and effective in preventing the release of an egg. The drug inhibits or delays ovulation by diminishing the effects of progesterone, according to theFDA release.
According to the New York Times, Ella is more effective than Plan B, the "morning-after" pill available over the counter to women over the age of 17 in the United States. Plan B is only effective three days after contraceptive failure or unprotected sex. Side effects of Ella are similar to those of Plan B, including headache, nausea, abdominal pain, pain/discomfort during menstruation (dysmenorrhea), fatigue, and dizziness, according to WebMD Health News.
The drug, under the name EllaOne, is made by French company HRA Pharma. It is available with a prescription in Europe and is currently approved in 22 countries. Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. will distribute Ella in the United States.
Anti-choice advocates argue that EllaOne is akin to mifepristone, which terminates existing pregnancies. According to Reuters, supporters of EllaOne agree that the drug is chemically similar to mifepristone, but one dose will not interfere with existing pregnancies. "There's just no evidence that it causes abortion," said Dr. Paul Fine, a Baylor College of Medicine professor and the medical director for Planned Parenthood in Houston and Southeast Texas.
Planned Parenthood has commended the FDA's decision. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said, "Every woman deserves every option available to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, and there are many reasons why a woman may face the risk of unintended pregnancy, from failure or improper use of birth control to sexual assault," in a statement. "The FDA's approval of this new form of emergency contraception gives women one more option."
Media Resources: FDA Release; Feminist Newswire 6/16/10, 6/18/10; Los Angeles Times 8/13/10; New York Times 8/13/10; WebMD Health News 8/13/10; Planned Parenthood Press Release 8/13/10; Reuters 6/15/10