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New pill stops periods

21st May 2007

The United States drug regulatory body looks set to approve a new birth control pill which can stop women's menstruation entirely.

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The new drug, Wyeth's Lybrel, is the first pill to eliminate any breaks in hormonal dosage to allow for a week of 'withdrawal bleeding' which mimics a natural period.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce approval Tuesday for the drug, which is the fourth oral contraceptive to come to market which doesn't stick to the traditional cycle of 21 days of active pills followed by seven days of placebo pills.

Among others, Yaz and Loestrin 24 shorten monthly periods to three days or less and Seasonique, an updated version of Seasonale, reduces them to four times a year.

In trials, 71% of women taking Lybrel reported their periods had stopped completely after six months on the pill. Others, however, left the study owing to irregular bleeding or spotting.

Experts say more and more women have enquired into the possibility of having their periods suppressed altogether. Some doctors says menstruation is not necessary, while others say too little is known about the effects of period suppression, which they term 'unnatural'.

Baltimore health psychologist Paula S Derry wrote in an opinion piece in the British Medical Journal two weeks ago that "menstrual suppression itself is unnatural," and that there's not enough data to determine if it is safe long-term.

Sheldon J. Segal, a scientist at the nonprofit research group Population Council, wrote back that a British study found no harm in taking pills with much higher hormone levels than today's products for up to 10 years.

Wyeth says it plans to market Lybrel to doctors first. Analysts estimate Lybrel sales could reach US$40 million this year and $235 million by 2010. US sales of Seasonique, launched last August, hit $6.1 million in the first quarter of 2007. Predecessor Seasonale, which got cheaper generic competition in September, peaked at about $100 million. Yaz, launched last August, had first-quarter sales of $35.6 million; Loestrin 24, launched in April 2006, hit $34.4 million in the first quarter.

Most doctors say monthly bleeding triggers health problems from anaemia to epilepsy in many women, and that modern women endure many more periods than their ancestors, who were more often pregnant or breastfeeding.

Gynaecologist Mindy Wiser-Estin said she supported the suppression of menstrual periods, but said she encouraged younger women to take a break every 12 weeks to educate them about menstruation and the symptoms of pregnancy, which occurs in around 1% of women who take the oral contraceptive pill.

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Comments

charles linskaill

Monday 21st May 2007 @ 0:12

This is an utterly terrible idea; it's neither natural nor sensible. The unknown unnatural side affects could be devastating for women who take this hormone. Like all other hormones tested, women have been Guinea pigs for years. It's time to stop experimenting with women's bodies.


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