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Will pharmacists fill 'ella' prescriptions?

Even before a controversial new form of emergency contraception arrives on pharmacy shelves in the United States, opponents have launched a campaign to persuade pharmacists not to fill prescriptions for the drug. The Family Research Council is asking supporters to start lobbying their local pharmacists to refuse to dispense the drug, known as "ella."

The Food and Drug Administration approved ella Aug. 13 as a new type of "morning-after" pill that can prevent a pregnancy for up to five days after sex. Supporters say the pill offers women a much-needed new way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The only other morning-after pill on the market, known as Plan B, starts to lose effectiveness quickly and becomes far less effective after 72 hours.

Opponents, however, argue that ella is really an abortion drug masquerading as a morning-after pill. Ella is chemically similar to RU-486, the so-called "French abortion pill." As a result, they argue that women might inadvertently give themselves abortions, and worry that some men might slip the drug to unsuspecting women. They also question whether ella is safe.

The Family Research Council is asking supporters to talk to their pharmacists about these issues and direct them to a Web site for more information. Some pharmacists already refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills and Plan B.

Supporters, however, argue that there is no evidence that ella causes abortion and maintains that the drug is very safe. In separate e-mails, HRA Pharma of Paris, which developed ella, and Watson Pharmaceuticals, which will market the drug in the United States, both defended the drug, which is expected to become available by the end of the year.

Here's the e-mail from Charlie Mayr of Watson:

Watson recognizes and respects that there are varying opinions concerning contraception and emergency contraception. However, Watson believes that ella® represents an important additional emergency contraceptive option for women who elect to use emergency contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy following a contraceptive accident or incident of unprotected intercourse.

HRA Pharma's ella® (ulipristal acetate) has been approved by the U.S. FDA as safe and effective in helping prevent unintended pregnancy when taken as soon as possible within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected intercourse (UPI) or contraceptive failure. ella® (ulipristal acetate) 30 mg tablet is not an abortifacient and the product is not RU-486.

ella® will be available in the U.S. as a prescription-only product later this year. As with any prescription drug, Watson encourages consumers to review patient information material, and to ask their physician or pharmacist any questions about the product and its use. However, we believe the product labeling as approved clearly defines the indication for ella®, provides information on the mechanism of action of ulipristal acetate, and provides complete details of the responsible use of ella® as an emergency contraceptive.

Watson believes that there remains an unmet need for a 'next generation' emergency contraceptive product and we are committed to working with women, healthcare providers, physicians and pharmacists to educate them about the availability of the ella® emergency contraceptive option.

By Rob Stein  | September 21, 2010; 11:38 AM ET
Categories:  Abortion, Birth Control, Contraception, Pregnancy, Women's Health  
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Yes, it's their job.

Really, men will slip into women's drinks?! I'm not really sure what would motivate this...

Posted by: MzFitz | September 21, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

It's not "supporters" of ella that argue it doesn't cause an abortion. The medical doctors, researchers and the FDA said this. That's why it was approved as a family planning drug. It is emergency contraception to prevent a pregnancy.

The Family Research Council is not a professional medical organization. They are an extremely conservative social and political group. They oppose birth control because they THINK it causes an abortion. The should not be given equal footing with trained medical professionals who test drugs and who KNOW how medications work.

Posted by: bluebird20 | September 22, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Any pharmacist that refuses to fill a doctor ordered prescription should be fired immediately. You don't get to bring your religion to work.

Posted by: Voodoo_Idol | September 22, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Here! Here!

Posted by: pollosmoky | September 22, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Simple solution - - make it over-the-counter.

* Get the medical industrial complex out of the picture.

* Pharmacists are happy. They don't have to act against their conscience.

* Women are happy. They don't have to drive around for hours from pharmacy to pharmacy to find someone to fill their prescription.

* Bible thumpers are happy. They don't want abortions, they don't have to get one.

* Libertarians are happy. Nobody gonna' tell them what to do.

* Insurance companies are happy. They don't pay for OTC med's anyway.

What's not to like?

Posted by: seattle_wa | September 22, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"* Bible thumpers are happy. They don't want abortions, they don't have to get one."

Hahaha. No chance. As long as ANYONE is out there having nonprocreative fun, they will never be happy.

Posted by: Janine1 | September 24, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

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