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Joe Saunders
Joe Saunders
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FDA Issues Warning About Birth Control Patch

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On November 10, 2005 the Food and Drug Administration issued an updated labeling concerning Ortho Evra, the birth control patch used by many women. Here is the statement released by the FDA:

The Food and Drug Administration today approved updated labeling for the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch to warn healthcare providers and patients that this product exposes women to higher levels of estrogen than most birth control pills. Ortho Evra was the first skin patch approved for birth control.

It is a weekly prescription patch that releases ethinyl estradiol (an estrogen hormone) and norelgestromin (a progestin hormone) through the skin into the blood stream. FDA advises women to talk to their doctor or healthcare provider about whether the patch is the right method of birth control for them.

Furthermore, women taking or considering using this product should work with their health care providers to balance the potential risks related to increased estrogen exposure against the risk of pregnancy if they do not follow the daily regimen associated with typical birth control pills. Because Ortho Evra is a patch that is changed once a week, it decreases the chance associated with typical birth control pills that a woman might miss one or more daily doses.

The addition of this new warning is a result of FDA’s and the manufacturer’s analysis directly comparing the levels for estrogen and progestin hormones in users of Ortho Evra with those in a typical birth control pill. In general, increased estrogen exposure may increase the risk of blood clots. However, it is not known whether women using Ortho Evra are at a greater risk of experiencing these serious adverse events.

The new bolded warning specifically states that women who use Ortho Evra are exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than if they were taking a typical birth control pill containing 35 micrograms of estrogen. However, the maximum amount of estrogen to which women are exposed is about 25% lower with Ortho Evra than they are with typical birth control pills.

FDA is continuing to monitor safety reports for the Ortho Evra patch. The manufacturer, Ortho McNeil Pharmaceuticals is conducting additional studies to compare the risk of developing serious blood clots in women using Ortho Evra to the risk in women using typical birth control pills that contain 35 micrograms of estrogen.

The new labeling information is available along with additional information for healthcare providers and consumers online at: www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/orthoevra/default.htm