A French manufacturer of Norlevo, which is a morning-after pill distributed in Europe that is similar to Plan B, has just issued a warning that the emergency contraception is ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds. In fact, the pill is shown to begin losing its effectiveness in women who weigh more 165 pounds.
Given the fact that the average weight of an American woman is 166 pounds (at 5 feet 3 inches), this news is going to affect a whole lot of women on this side of the Atlantic. American contraception companies may want to take some notes from their European counterparts and provide warning labels pronto.
In the U.S., popular brands like over-the-counter Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way have been found to have the same chemical and dosage makeup as Norlevo, which makes it a very real possibility that these pills will not work for overweight and obese women. No matter what your feelings may be on emergency contraception, stats often paint a truthful picture: the percentage of American women who have used the morning-after pill has jumped from just 1 percent in 1995 to 11 percent during 2006-2011.
That's 5.8 million women, folks. I'm going to go out on a limb and say with assurance that these women vary in weight and body mass index and do not all weigh 120 pounds, either. And, given the fact that many women will choose to be private about taking a morning-after pill, I wonder how many would actually step forward and admit it didn't work for them.
I'm not in favor of relying on emergency contraception to take the place of condoms for a few reasons, one of which is that I personally fear taking a drug that hasn't been tested for at least 150 years -- okay, I'm exaggerating, but not much. But that's just me. I completely understand the panic felt by women after a condom has broken or, God forbid, sex has taken place without a woman's consent. And in those instances, the morning-after pill serves as a low-stress option for women who fear they may be pregnant and are not ready to become mothers.
At the end of the day, I don't think it matters what I or anyone else thinks of emergency contraception. What matters is that women receive the most accurate and up-to-date information about these drugs so they can make informed decisions. Although American manufacturers have yet to comment about the efficacy of their contraception, an announcement may come sooner than we think.
Are you surprised to learn that the morning-after pill may not work for overweight and obese women?
Image via Teva Pharmaceutical Industries