A new contraceptive pill that is taken every day could end pre-menstrual tension, newspapers reported on September 27 2007. The so-called 'super pill', Lybrel, is taken continuously, without the monthly seven-day break that is recommended for women taking conventional contraceptive pills. It works, said the newspapers, by suppressing menstruation.
It “completely stops bleeding in more than 70% of women who take it for seven months”, they reported.
Lybrel is already available in the US and manufacturers have announced that they hope to bring it to Britain next year. However, yesterday's reports raised questions over the safety of a pill that stopped periods. "Doctors have raised concerns that suppressing menstruation could be unsafe and the long-term effects on the body are not yet known,” said the Telegraph .
The reports are based upon an article written in the magazine New Scientist . The article says that, for many women, periods and PMT are an unwelcome occurrence, and this has caused some women to take the conventional pill continuously without a break in order to avoid having a period.
The author discusses a popular debate amongst health professionals about whether this can lead to increased health risks (such as masked infertility, risk of blood clots or reduced bone density) or whether it's actually healthier for women not to menstruate regularly, which could possibly decrease risks such as anaemia and fibroids.
The author then discusses the contraceptive pill Lybrel and other contraceptive developments.
This is a news article on the contraceptive pill, Lybrel, which is “the first oral contraceptive to be approved for continuous use”. The article did not provide in-depth information about the research that has led to this approval.
There is some information about this research on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. The FDA reports that two one-year clinical studies were carried out to test the safety and efficacy of the pill, during which it was administered to 2,400 women in the US.
In the US, the FDA approved Lybrel for continuous use on May 22 2007. The FDA reports that in the main clinical study, 59% of women who had taken Lybrel for one year had been free of any bleeding during the last month of the study.
The New Scientist article makes no conclusions relevant to this story.
These news reports will no doubt be of interest to many women in the UK. Lybrel is not currently available in this country, but if it does become available there are several things to consider:
It is difficult to weigh up the options and make a decision about the relevance of this type of article. This is not a systematic review of all the evidence about the pill. An article of this type helps our understanding, but it cannot be used as a basis for decision-making.