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Emergency Contraception Drug Breakthrough


January 29, 2010.

New research published in The Lancet shows that French company HRA Pharma's emergency contraception drug ellaOne (ulipristal acetate) prevents more pregnancies than the widely-used alternative, levonorgestrel (marketed as Plan B, Levonelle and NorLevo in the US, UK and most of western Europe, respectively). ellaOne has recently been licensed for use up to five days after unprotected sexual intercourse, compared with just three days for levonorgestrel.

The authors of the study performed their own trial, and combined their results with a previous study (meta-analysis). Combination of data from the two studies allowed analysis of a sample sufficiently large to show that, compared to levonorgestrel, ellaOne almost halved the risk of becoming pregnant in women who received emergency contraception within 120 h (five days) after sexual intercourse.

ellaOne was approved by the European Medicines Agency in May 2009 as a safe and effective method of emergency contraception for use up to five days after unprotected sexual intercourse - and is currently being launched throughout Europe. However, although it could be made available through pharmacies and via nurses, it will not be as easily accessible as levonorgestrel until more safety data become available.

The study's findings are published in Article Online First (www.thelancet.com). Pharm Exec Europe's interview with HRA Pharma chief executive Dr Erin Gainer is available here.