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FDA Panel to Vote on New 'Morning After' Pill
Date:6/17/2010

Marketed as ellaOne in Europe, backers say it extends window of emergency contraception, but opponents see it as abortion drug

THURSDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel plans to vote Thursday on whether to approve a new emergency contraception pill that is effective for a longer period of time than the "morning after" pill known as Plan B.

The new drug, ulipristal acetate or UPA, is marketed under the brand name ellaOne and would be available only by prescription; it would be effective if taken up to five days after unprotected intercourse. Plan B, another emergency contraceptive, is only effective for up to three days after unprotected sex.

Although the FDA does not always follow the recommendations of its advisory panels, it typically does.

UPA, which is already marketed in 22 European countries, is made by French pharmaceutical company HRA Pharma.

The drug works by inhibiting ovulation, explained Dr. Paul Fine, medical director of Planned Parenthood of Houston & Southeast Texas & Louisiana and a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and urology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Fine was author of a study published earlier this year in The Lancet that found that UPA cut the risk of an unintended pregnancy in half as compared with levonorgestrel (also known as Plan B, which is now available over-the-counter) in women who took it within five days of unprotected sex.

The possibility of the FDA giving a green light to ellaOne has sparked intense debate as to whether the pill simply prevents pregnancy or actually induces an abortion.

"It is not an abortion pill," said Fine. "The reason for this is that if ovulation has already occurred and fertilization has occurred, then the pregnancy is going to happen. That is also true with Plan B."

"All we can hope is that the FDA advisory committee will listen
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