The Big Problem With Ella

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 22 2010 7:26 PM

The Big Problem With Ella

/blogs/xx_factor/2010/06/22/unless_the_new_morningafter_pill_ella_goes_overthecounter_women_wont_use_it/jcr:content/body/slate_image

At first glance, it appears that Ella , the new emergency contraception pill developed by HRA Pharma, could make Plan B, the first "morning-after pill" in the United States, obsolete. Ella works for five days after unprotected sex occurred; Plan B must be taken within 72 hours. Plus, studies show that it may be more effective than Plan B at preventing pregnancy.

Advertisement

So when I talked to James Trussell, director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and one of the most well-known pro-choice advocates in the country, I was surprised to hear him say that the didn’t think it would make much of a difference.

He thinks Ella is a great new drug and said (in theory) that he would recommend it to his own daughter if he had one. But since Plan B was approved for over-the-counter status by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006, use has skyrocketed . In the first year it was available OTC, sales doubled. And since then, obtaining emergency contraception has become as easy (for women over 17), as say, buying cigarettes: go to the pharmacy, show proof of age, pay for purchase.

But Ella’s manufacturer, HRA Pharma, didn’t even apply for over-the-counter approval because ulipristal acetate, Ella’s chemical name, is a completely new chemical entity. "Women … are not going to go to their doctor looking for emergency contraception, so how will they ever find out about it?" Trussell asked. "They’ll just go to CVS and buy Plan B one-step."

Frugal women may take the extra step for Ella: Insurance companies that cover other forms of contraception are likely to cover emergency contraception as well , which may make a prescription drug cheaper in some cases, according to Adam Sonfield, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute.

Even if Ella doesn’t become a blockbuster prescription drug, a new emergency contraception option, especially one that works for five days, is a big victory for reproductive health advocates. The extra two days can mean a lot for a woman if she doesn’t have easy access to a pharmacy or her pharmacist refuses to dispense emergency contraception.

And if Ella does get FDA approval, it will have one more major challenge: marketing the vague name. We call emergency contraception "Plan B" for a reason.

Photograph of Plan B courtesy of Getty Images.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM The Phone Call Is Twenty Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.