New Warning: Morning-After Pill Doesn’t Work for Women Over 176 Pounds
The European manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill identical to Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, will warn women that the drug is completely ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds and begins to lose effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds. HRA Pharma, the French manufacturer of the European drug, Norlevo, is changing its packaging information to reflect the weight limits. European pharmaceutical regulators approved the change on November 10, but it has not been previously reported.
This development has implications for American women. Some of the most popular emergency contraceptive pills sold over the counter in the United States—including the one-pill drugs Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way, and a number of generic two-pill emergency contraceptives—have a dosage and chemical makeup identical to the European drug. Weight data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that, at 166 pounds, the average American woman is too heavy to use these pills effectively.
These pills, which use a compound called levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancies, are the most effective morning-after pills available without a prescription. Other pills sold in the United States require a prescription, are less effective at preventing pregnancy, or cause side effects such as nausea or vomiting. Plan B One-Step, which retails for $50, is the only emergency contraceptive drug in the United States available to women of all ages without a prescription.