Need a Plan C for Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception for people with obesity might require a plan C. Data from the University of Edinburgh suggests that the emergency contraception product marketed as Plan B may not work for women with excess weight.

Earlier this week, makers of a similar emergency contraception product in Europe revised the label to warn that it might not work in women weighing as little as 165 pounds and is completely ineffective in women weighing more than 175 pounds.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the data to determine whether a change in labeling if needed.

This news comes in the midst of a great deal of controversy about exactly how emergency contraception works. The European product label now says it “cannot stop a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb.” Anti-abortion activists dispute this observation, fueling their challenge to making emergency contraception available under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s taken more than two years for this observation to make its way into broad public view. The study behind all of this was published in early 2011 by the journal Contraception. The investigators found that women with obesity were four times more likely to become pregnant after using levonorgestrel (the active ingredient in Plan B) for emergency contraception, compared to women without excess weight.

We wonder why the FDA is moving so slowly. Could it be that the politics of obesity are colliding with the politics of women’s health?

Whatever the excuse, it’s lame.

Click here to read more from NPR, here to read more in the New York Times, and here to read the study in Contraception.

Which Way Is the Exit? Photograph © HuTDoG83 / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.