In a move hailed as unveiling the best-kept secret of women’s health care, government scientists on Friday declared high doses of ordinary birth control pills taken soon after sex a good way to prevent pregnancy.
Some women’s advocates applauded as scientific advisers to the Food and Drug Administration unanimously voted that the pills are safe and effective.
But the largest contraceptive manufacturer said it will not sell “morning-after” pills in the United States for fear of lawsuits - even though it does sell them abroad - and some abortion foes protest the pills.
Now the FDA, debating how to spread information about emergency contraception, must figure out a next step.
The agency has several choices: Encourage pill makers or their generic competition to market emergency contraception; publicize the proper doses so doctors better prescribe them; or, as women’s groups want, force manufacturers to add the doses to existing pill labels, a choice that makes the FDA uncomfortable.
To work, two to four pills are taken up to 72 hours after sex, and then the same dose taken again exactly 12 hours later. The panel said the six brands known to work are: two tablets of Wyeth’s Ovral or four tablets of Wyeth’s Nordette, Lo/ Ovral or Triphasil or Berlex Laboratories’ Levlen or Tri-Levlen.
Nausea and vomiting, sometimes severe enough to prevent the emergency contraceptive from working, are the main side effects.