Volume 91, Issue 68

Thursday, January 29, 1998



New birth control pill may have fewer side-effects

By Sabrina Carinci
Gazette Staff

Since the introduction of oral contraceptives in the 1960s, use of 'the pill' has become one of the most popular forms of birth control, but the addition of a new contraceptive called "Alesse" promises to bring more pleasure and less pain for women.

This new contraceptive, unveiled yesterday at Womens' College Hospital in Toronto, is being praised for having the lowest level of female hormones while still being equally effective against unwanted pregnancy as existing birth control pills.

Wyeth-Ayerst Canada Incorporated, the manufacturer of the new product, did not add new ingredients to the pill but instead lessened the dosages of estrogen and progestin which are suspected to cause side-effects such as mood swings, weight gain and acne flare-up, said Elizabeth Margles, director of communications and public affairs at Wyeth-Ayerst.

While testing the new pill, less than one per cent of the study patients suffered from related side-effects – a considerably low number, Margles said.

There is certain evidence which suggests the birth control pill can lead to, among other things, certain kinds of cancer and vascular system problems – this is probably the main reason for reducing the female hormones, said John Wiebe, an endocrinologist in the faculty of science at Western. "If I could, I would probably recommend the new pill."

"Most women don't want to gain weight and thus either won't start taking the pill or discontinue use of it," said obstetrician and gynecologist Lawrence Komer.

Throughout the years, the estrogen content in birth control pills has been reduced frequently. Where once over 100 micrograms was used, the amount has fallen to 80, 50 , then 30 and now 20 micrograms, Komer said.

Experts at Health Canada's health protection branch who studied the new pill accepted it on Dec. 3 of last year, deeming Alesse as a safe and effective contraceptive despite the record low 20 micrograms of estrogen used in its production, said Monique Renaud-Gagné, media relations officer for Health Canada.

Alesse has already hit the pharmacy shelves and is comparable in cost to the other birth control pills on the market, Margles said.

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