December 3, 2013 — Planned Parenthood affiliates have launched a nationwide campaign to educate women and clinicians about two emergency contraceptive methods that can be used instead of Plan B One-Step, United Press International reports (UPI, 11/30).
The effort comes as FDA reviews reports that levonorgestrel -- the active ingredient in the most widely used EC products, including Plan B One-Step -- begins losing effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/26).
The Planned Parenthood campaign, called EC4U, aims to spread awareness about ParaGard, a copper intrauterine device, and ella, a newer EC pill that uses the hormone ulipristal acetate instead of levonorgestrel.
Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said that while Plan B One-Step "can prevent pregnancy in individual women, we've all been disappointed that on the population level, it just hasn't had the effect we hoped." She added, "The unintended pregnancy rate hasn't changed at all."
According to UPI, both a woman's weight and when she takes Plan B One-Step can influence its effectiveness. The drug is most effective when taken within 72 hours after sex, after which its effectiveness declines rapidly. The drug has an overall effectiveness rate estimated at 74% to 89%, UPI reports.
Comparatively, ParaGard is 99% effective if inserted within five days after sex, regardless of weight. Ella also retains its effectiveness for a full five days, although it also loses efficacy at higher weights.
Nucatola noted that ella and ParaGard are harder to access than Plan B One-Step, which does not require a prescription. Ella requires a prescription, and ParaGard requires both a prescription and a doctor's appointment for insertion (UPI, 11/30).