Press release

Emergency contraceptive affected by other medicines - regulator issues new guidance

Women needing the emergency contraceptive pill containing levonorgestrel should tell their healthcare professional if they are currently taking medicines for epilepsy and certain serious infections, or herbal remedies such as St John’s Wort as these may reduce how well the emergency contraceptive works.

To protect against unwanted pregnancies women taking these medicines may need to take a double dose of the emergency contraceptive (two packs) in order for it to be effective.

It is important that women tell their doctor, nurse or pharmacist if they are currently taking medicines to treat any of the following conditions or have used one in the last four weeks:

  • Epilepsy
  • Tuberculosis
  • HIV
  • Fungal infections
  • or herbal remedies containing St John’s Wort

We have produced a new information sheet, available through prescribers and pharmacists, advising what women need to do to ensure they receive effective emergency contraception.

Dr Sarah Branch, Deputy Director of MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines (VRMM) Division said:

This is important new advice for women who want to use the emergency contraceptive pill. It will help to protect women who are taking certain medicines against unwanted pregnancies.

Our new patient information sheet provides information on what types of medicines could interfere with how the emergency contraceptive works. It tells women what steps they need to take to ensure they receive the correct dose.

The earlier that emergency contraception is taken after unprotected intercourse, the better it works.

Ends

Notes to Editor

  1. Patient Information Sheet
  2. Drug Safety Update
  3. This updated advice is in line with existing guidance from UK experts in sexual and reproductive health, and will help ensure that women receive consistent advice.
  4. MHRA is responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices in the UK. All our work is underpinned by robust and fact-based judgments to ensure that the benefits justify any risks. MHRA is a centre of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency which also includes the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD). The Agency is an executive agency of the Department of Health. www.mhra.gov.uk

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