December 6, 2010 — The Boston Globe on Monday discussed the emergency contraceptive ulipristal acetate -- sold in the U.S. under the brand name "ella" -- which was approved by FDA in August and provides women "another option" for EC in addition to levonorgestrel, sold under the brand name Plan B and Plan B One-Step and generically as Next Choice.
Both drugs can prevent pregnancy if taken shortly after unprotected sex by delaying or suppressing ovulation. According to the Globe, the "length of that window of opportunity" is the "major difference" between the two drugs, as Plan B is approved for up to 72 hours after sex and ella is approved for up to 120 hours. While Plan B is most effective the earliest it is taken, ella's effectiveness appears to remain consistent over the 120-hour period.
The availability of levonrogestrel without a prescription to women 17 and older is its "main advantage" over ella, which is available by prescription only, the Globe reports. Robert Barbieri, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said that levonorgestrel has also been on the market "for over 50 years, and there's a very strong record of safety." The drug is also available in generic form, which can reduce the cost slightly.
However, "[w]hen you compare them head to head, either is going to be excellent," Barbieri said, adding, "The big point is that any [EC] is better than none" (Humphries, Boston Globe, 12/6).