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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 11:13 GMT
Contraceptive patch set for Europe
Patch
The patch would be changed weekly
The first ever contraceptive patch has been approved for use in Europe.

In clinical trials the patch, called Evra and manufactured by Janssen-Cilag, was found to be 99% effective - a similar rate to the Pill.


We would welcome its introduction as an extra contraception choice for women

Department of Health
However, the trials also showed that compliance levels were higher among women using the patch than among those taking the Pill.

The patch contains the same hormones - oestrogen and progesterone - as the contraceptive pill, but in lower quantities.

This is because they are absorbed straight into the bloodstream, rather than having to go through the digestive tract as happens with the Pill.

Fewer side effects

Unlike the Pill, its effectiveness is not compromised if the patient has vomiting or diarrhoea, and it has fewer side effects.

The patch would need to be changed once a week for three weeks. Then the woman wears no patch during her normal menstrual period before starting again.

It has been designed to stay on while bathing and swimming.

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association said she was sure the patch would be very popular if introduced in the UK.

Dr Patricia Stephenson, one of the patch trial researchers, said: "Although there are a variety of birth control methods to choose from, many women still desire new options."

The blue light from the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products comes three months after the product was approved by US authorities.

The European Commission is now expected to issue a license by the summer.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Should the contraceptive patch be licensed in Europe we would welcome its introduction as an extra contraception choice for women."

Warning

Although the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the patch, it has warned that it is may not be a good option for every woman.

Women who weigh more than approximately 14 stones (196 lbs) may not get a high enough contraceptive dose, it warned.

The patch, which consists of three thin layers in a one-and-three-quarter inch square, should be applied to the lower abdomen, buttocks or upper body, at a different location each week.

It must never be placed on the breast, warned the FDA.

They carry the same risks and side-effects as the Pill, including nausea or breast tenderness, and a small risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke, particularly if women smoke while using the contraceptive.

Evra will be available on prescription in America next year. The cost is expected to be approximately $40 a month.

The Brook Advisory Service's medical spokeswoman, Dr Gillian Vanhegan, said: "Brook always welcomes advances in the field of contraception which give increased choice to young people.

"However, it must be remembered that the patch would not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Therefore, it should be used with a barrier method such as a condom."

See also:

21 Nov 01 | Health
Go-ahead for contraceptive patch
08 Mar 01 | Health
Contraception fails UK youth
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