Wyeth Oral Contraceptive Lybrel Available In US

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Wyeth on Monday said its oral contraceptive Lybrel, which is designed to eliminate monthly menstrual periods, is now available in U.S. pharmacies, the AP/Forbes reports (AP/Forbes, 7/30). Lybrel, which contains a lower dose of synthetic hormones in a daily dose than traditional oral contraceptives, is taken 365 days a year with no placebo pills. The usual regimen for oral contraceptives is 21 active pills taken consecutively, followed by seven placebo pills. FDA approved the drug in May.

A European trial found that the drug prevented pregnancy in all 323 women who took it, according to Wyeth. The company also said that 59% of women taking Lybrel stopped bleeding after six months, but 18% of women participating in a clinical trial dropped out because of bleeding or spotting.

Available medical research shows that the side effects of pills that suppress menstruation are similar to those of other birth control pills. The most significant risk of the pills is cardiovascular complications in women who smoke.

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In a study conducted by Wyeth, nearly two-thirds of women expressed an interest in eliminating their menstrual periods. However, Wyeth research also found that nearly 50% of the women surveyed welcomed their periods as a sign that they were not pregnant, and nearly 25% said they were attached to their periods as a natural part of womanhood (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 5/23). A Wyeth spokesperson said Lybrel's cost will be similar to other oral contraceptives, the Houston Chronicle reports.

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Many physicians agree that it is healthy for women to skip monthly periods using Lybrel and that it could be helpful for women who experience cramping, nausea, breast tenderness, migraine headaches or mood changes during their periods, according to the Chronicle.

Some women say they thing it is unnatural to eliminate monthly periods. However, Patricia Sulak, a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center's College of Medicine, said that women's bodies are designed to eliminate menstruation through pregnancy or breast-feeding during childbearing years but that women today have more menstrual periods than necessary because of widely available contraception and their modern roles in society.

According to the Chronicle, some sociologists and anthropologists have said that Lybrel could further society's perception that menstruation is shameful by suggesting that women should eliminate their periods because they are messy or embarrassing. "By telling young women there's something wrong with a natural menstrual cycle, ... we're really giving them the message that there's something wrong with women's bodies," Jean Elson, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire, said (Grant, Houston Chronicle, 7/31).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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