Despite all we know about birth control and “being safe,” sexually active women experience unforeseen circumstances and in such occasions, we need a contingency plan; which is where emergency contraception comes in. Unfortunately, French manufacturer HRA Pharma scientists recently found that Europe’s “morning-after pill” Norlevo’s effectiveness drastically diminishes for women over 165 pounds and is rendered ineffective for women over 176 pounds. Norlevo’s manufacturers are set to release new warning labels come 2014 to warn women of these revelations.
Norlevo is identical to the U.S.’s morning after pill, Plan B and its generic variations, Next Choice One Dose and My Way. The FDA is currently reviewing the HRA’s research and will determine if label changes are warranted on our emergency contraceptives. What is troubling is that according to the CDC, the average American woman is 166.2 pounds, just slightly over the weight at which Plan B’s effectiveness begins to wane. Currently, Plan B is available without a prescription and given that almost a quarter of women ages 20-24 report having used emergency contraception, this has enormous implications on overweight women’s ability to use Plan B as a contingency plan. It’s unclear as to why Plan B is ineffective for overweight women, but with America’s ongoing obesity epidemic, drug manufacturers may have to consider developing an emergency contraceptive for heavier women. However, if the FDA determines that Plan B’s warning labels will have to change to reflect HRA’s research, it may prove to be another incentive for the U.S. to revisit the causes of obesity and how to prevent it.
On college campuses, it’s more likely that sexually active students may need to seek morning-after pills. However, a study revealed that many students don’t know where to find credible information on emergency contraceptives nor how to obtain the morning after pills. As a Catholic university, Villanova does not offer over the counter birth control on campus and our student health center website offers little to no information on birth control. There’s a wealth of information on sexual assault, alcohol, and healthy living but next to nothing on how to be safe when sexually active. It begs the question on whether or not college students, especially those attending Catholic institutions, be made aware should the FDA decide that Plan B will need to change its warning labels.