Tuesday, May 22, 2007

FDA Approves Pill That Pauses Periods

Wyeth won FDA approval for Lybrel, a pill that eliminates monthly periods. Of course, the question remains: will women use it? Seasonale, a pill that reduces menstruation to four times a year, has been a bit player in the hormonal birth control option since it came on the market, largely because women report being uncomfortable with not knowing if they're pregnant or not. Although the monthly period a woman has while on the pill is a false period, that merely mimics natural and normal body function, it serves as a visible reminder that there was no failure in the birth control method - or allows for the option of choice if failure did occur.

Eliminating the period also eliminates the reassurance most women who are using the pill seek. Now granted, there are women who are using the pill for other reasons - endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, etc - and for them this will likely be a great option. But I remain unconvinced that Lybrel will be able to capture a market that Seasonale was unable to make a dent in.


Anonymous said...

even more than "will a woman use it," the question of "why" might be asked. for example,why use a drug that's had little testing for safety and for which long-term risks (e.g., re breast cancer, heart disease, bones)are unknown?

abby lippman

Kelly Hills said...

Abby -
I'm not sure I understand your concern. Lybrel underwent the FDA approval process, which is your average safety testing. On top of that, a small segment of women have been using birth control pills for years to moderate and/or eliminate their periods, and there has been little to indicate that there is any risk other than those already associated with the use of any hormonal birth control method.

Personally, my inclination is actually opposite of what Wyeth and other pill manufacturer's think of when they consider the target market. Being a currently celibate woman, I'm much more likely to consider utilizing these period-cessation pills to not have to deal with hormones, cramping, bloating, heavy bleeding, and the rampant bitchiness and moodiness that plagues me monthly - I have no fears or concerns of pregnancy, so why not? (Well, aside from cost issue - broke grad students must carefully balance their pharma budgets, after all.)

When I am next in a situation where pregnancy becomes an issue, I would probably move back to a method I was more confident would alert me if there had been a failure in contraception.