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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Patch could replace birth pill
The Evra patch
The patch releases a constant dose of hormones
A contraceptive patch is now available on prescription to women in the UK.

Evra, a smooth beige patch the size of a matchbox is applied to the skin, releasing a constant dose of hormones into the bloodstream.

It lasts for a week at a time, removing the need for women to remember to take a pill every day.

Women use it for three consecutive weeks, with the fourth week "patch free".

This exciting innovation in contraception is a real step forward and great news for women
Anne Weyman, Family Planning Association
Its makers say it is 99% effective, like the Pill.

Like the Pill, it works by suppressing ovulation and tricking the body into believing it is pregnant.

But because it delivers hormones through direct into the bloodstream, rather than into the digestive system, women would not be affected if they experienced vomiting or diarrhoea.

Family planning experts say the convenience factor should make the product easier to use, reducing unwanted pregnancies.

Pregnancy prevention

The patch can be worn under clothing on the buttocks, the abdomen, the upper torso or the upper outer arm.

Trials carried out by makers Jansenn-Cilag have shown Evra is well tolerated and has similar side effects to the Pill.

The patch is already available on prescription in the US and has recently been approved in Canada.

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said: "This exciting innovation in contraception is a real step forward and great news for women.

"The patch has already had a good reception in America and we expect it to prove popular here with women who want to use hormonal contraception."

She added: "The patch works in the same way as the pill, but you don't have to remember to take it every day. Instead, a woman changes her patch just once a week and this new method should prove useful in helping to reduce unplanned pregnancies."

Go-ahead for contraceptive patch
21 Nov 01  |  Health

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