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50 years of 'the pill' -- and here's yet another one

May 7, 2010 |  6:45 pm

Pill "The pill" appears to be evolving, but to what end? On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new oral contraceptive called Natazia. It's the first to offer doses of progestin and estrogen that vary at four times throughout the 28-day treatment cycle.  

Here's the FDA announcement of the new oral contraceptive.

And here's a recent Health section story that provides an explainer on the evolution of birth control pills (they're not just for preventing pregnancy any more) -- and how two of the offerings in particular have proved especially controversial in recent years. That story, "Birth control pill concerns bring lawsuits but few solid answers," begins:

"When the oral contraceptives Yasmin and Yaz came on the market in 2001 and 2006, respectively, they were thought to be safer than other birth control pills because they contained a different kind of synthetic progestin.

But in a flurry of lawsuits against the pills' maker, Bayer HealthCare, attorneys claim that the progestin contained in the pills, drospirenone, is the cause of health problems, including deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins), strokes, heart attacks and gallbladder disease."

Meanwhile, Times staff writer Shari Roan offered a perspective worth mulling this week amid all the reflections on the 50th anniversary of oral contraceptives. As she notes in that story, "'The pill': 50 years after":

"But despite the freedom in career and family planning it extended to so many women and couples, the pill has not fulfilled one big hope. Fifty years on, about half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended and 22% of pregnancies end in abortion.

'It's not going to be the answer to unintended pregnancy — we can be sure of that,' said James Trussell, director of Princeton University's Office of Population Research and a leading authority on contraception.

Trussell thinks that the pill's time is passing — and that the future lies instead with fool-proof contraceptives that require almost no thought or action."

The new pill still requires both thought and action. 

Not all contraceptives do. Here's more on hormonal contraceptives from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, including those that require no daily reminders.

Plus, here's more complete Natazia information from manufacturer Bayer.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Which to choose? The (by now) traditional hormonal contraceptive in pill form or an injectable version. Credit: Associated Press

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