New morning-after pill available at Boynton

Amber Foley

At noon Monday, Pam Smith answered her sixth call of the day about a new drug offered by Boynton Health Service’s women’s clinic.
The clinic has offered Plan B, a new version of the morning-after pill since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August.
Since then, Boynton has dispensed 57 Plan B prescriptions at $7 each. Previously, about 150 prescriptions of an alternative morning-after pill were filled each year, said Steve Cain, a Boynton Heath Service pharmacist.
Formally known as emergency contraceptives, morning-after pills reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex. The drugs are about 75 percent effective, said Dr. Marilyn Joseph, a obstetrician and gynecologist at Boynton Health Service.
“The morning-after pill is not an abortion pill,” Smith said. “It won’t disturb any pregnancy that has already occurred.”
Joseph said two types of emergency contraceptives have been approved by the Federal Drug Administration for use in the United States.
One is Preven, which contains high doses of the hormones estrogen and progestin, and the other is Plan B, which contains only progestin.
Joseph said Boynton switched over to using Plan B because it has been more effective and causes fewer side effects then Preven.
Joseph said the side effects — including nausea, irregular bleeding and breast tenderness — can still occur, but are minor compared to the side effects of the estrogen-containing pills.
Cain said since Boynton switched over to the progestin-only pill in August, demand has increased.
Dave Golden, Boynton Health Service’s community program specialist, said 29 patients asked for the morning-after pill in October.
Of those, Golden said 23 had never filled birth-control prescriptions at Boynton. Two patients began birth-control plans after taking the emergency contraceptive, and one filled a prescription the week before.
Joseph said the emergency contraceptives work by altering the uterus’ lining so a fertilized egg cannot attach. Emergency contraceptives can be used by anyone because they don’t have significant risks and are not harmful to a fetus if a women is already pregnant, she said.
Taking one Plan B pill is equivalent to 22 regular birth-control pills, Joseph said. The first dose must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse and must be followed by a second dose 12 hours later.
“It’s just a birth-control pill, and birth-control pills have been out there since the 1950s,” Smith said.
If a woman wants the morning-after pill, she must first call Boynton to give a health history to make sure she is eligible, Smith said.
Women are then asked to set up an appointment to receive counseling and information about the contraceptive, Joseph said.
“We also talk to them about future contraceptives so that they can get on a more reliable form of birth control,” Joseph said.

Amber Foley covers the St. Paul campus and welcomes comments at [email protected]