Beyaz First Oral Contraceptive to Raise Folate

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Women who want to get pregnant are often told to get enough folate or folic acid to help prevent birth defects. Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first oral contraceptive, Beyaz™, that raises folate levels.

Beyaz Helps Reduce Neural Tube Defect Risk

Neural tube defects are birth defects that affect the brain and spinal cord. The two most common types of these defects are spina bifida, in which the spinal column fails to close completely during the first month of pregnancy; and anencephaly, in which most of the brain does not develop.

While folate/folic acid can help prevent these birth defects, it only works if women get the vitamin before getting pregnant and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned, all women of childbearing age should get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily just in case they get pregnant and do not know it in time.

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Dr. Anita Nelson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, noted that “For women who want to use an oral contraceptive, Beyaz offers a new option for women to receive daily folate supplementation.” Beyaz is the only oral contraceptive that offers women this protection and option.

The March of Dimes reports that about 3,000 pregnancies are affected by neural tube defects each year in the United States. The group believes up to 70 percent of these defects could be prevented if women took enough folic acid before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy. A 2008 March of Dimes survey found that only 11 percent of women knew folic acid should be taken before pregnancy.

Beyaz is a combination of 3 mg drospirenome and 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol (the birth control pill YAZ®), along with 451 mcg levomefolate calcium, which is a B vitamin. This medication should not be taken by women older than 35 who smoke because of an increased risk of life-threatening conditions, including stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.

Beyaz, which will be available by prescription in October 2010, was approved by the FDA after it was found to significantly raise folate levels in healthy women aged 18 to 40 years during 24 weeks of treatment. Bayer, which makes the contraceptive, is planning additional birth control pills that contain folate.

SOURCES:
Food and Drug Administration
March of Dimes

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