New pill raises health-risk issues
May 23, 2007
BY TINA LAM and RUBY L. BAILEY
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS
Some metro Detroit women praised a new birth control pill that won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval on Tuesday. But others said they were skeptical and wanted more long-term evidence that the pill, which eliminates monthly periods, is safe.
Christie Lockman, 20, of Royal Oak takes birth control pills to regulate her periods and said she would think about trying the new pill, Lybrel.
"Who wouldn't like to have fewer periods?" Lockman said. "That's what every woman would want, I would think."
But Julie Kupsov, 37, of Farmington Hills wasn't so sure. She is expecting her first child this month and was on the pill for several years. "I probably wouldn't go on something that hasn't been studied long term," she said. "It's appealing, but I probably wouldn't do it."
About 12 million American women now take contraceptive pills. For most, it is a way to prevent pregnancy, but for some it is a way to regulate periods or ease menstrual symptoms such as cramps and heavy bleeding.
Lybrel is the first pill approved that women would take every day that suspends periods indefinitely. The original birth control pill, introduced in the 1960s, had 21 days of hormone pills and seven days of sugar pills. The pills caused monthly bleeding that mimicked natural periods.
Newer versions of the pill introduced in the past few years, including Yaz and Seasonique, make menstrual periods shorter or cause them to occur only a few times each year.
Lybrel stops periods altogether, using the lowest dose yet of hormones. But doctors cautioned that Lybrel, like its predecessors, carries the same risks: blood clots, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack, especially among women 35 or older and/or those who smoke. Some women may have spotting or breakthrough bleeding.
Wyeth, the pharmaceutical company that developed Lybrel, plans to start selling the pills in July. They contain two hormones, ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel.
The theory behind the lower dose is that it will reduce risks, said Dr. Susan Ernst, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at University Health Service in Ann Arbor.
Ernst said studies presented this month at national meetings showed that 99% of women reverted to natural periods or got pregnant when they stopped taking Lybrel, so there was no evidence it hurts fertility.