A new prescription birth control method for Canadian women – the first contraceptive patch – has been approved by Health Canada. Known as EVRA*, (norelgestromin/ethinyl estradiol transdermal system) the patch is applied once a week, providing the same protection against unintended pregnancy as the birth control pill.
EVRA is a smooth, beige square and is thin enough to be worn discreetly underneath clothing and delivers continuous levels of progestin and estrogen, the same active ingredients as the pill.
“EVRA offers what many women are looking for – an effective method of birth control that is simple and easy to use,” said Dr. Fay Weisberg, assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Toronto, who also noted that on average, pill users miss 4.3 pills every six months. “Although both the patch and the pill are effective in preventing pregnancy, it’s great to be able to offer a new birth control method that fits in with women’s busy lifestyles.”
EVRA works in the same way as birth control pills. It stops the ovaries from releasing an egg for fertilization and makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus by thickening the mucus in the cervix. EVRA is worn for one week at a time and is replaced on the same day of the week for three consecutive weeks. The fourth week is “patch-free.” Women can wear EVRA discreetly on the buttocks, abdomen, upper torso (front and back, excluding the breasts) or upper outer arm.
In clinical trials, EVRA was well tolerated. Some of the side effects (which are similar to oral contraceptives) women experienced include breast symptoms (tenderness), headache, application site reaction, nausea, upper respiratory infection, menstrual cramps and abdominal pain.
Like the pill, potentially serious side-effects include blood clots, stroke or heart attacks and the risk can increase if the woman smokes cigarettes. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects, especially for those over 35.
As well, some women should not use hormonal contraception at all. This includes women with a history of blood clots, certain cancers, a history of heart attack or stroke, as well as women who are or may be pregnant. The contraceptive patch does not protect against HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.
EVRA will be available by prescription early in the New Year.