When the mammoth pharmaceutical company Bayer announced in 2009 that it would be making NorLevo, a morning-after pill, available over the counter to women in Toronto, it failed to mention one small detail: it doesn’t work for every woman.
The drug, which is identical to Plan B One-step, (the more popular emergency contraception pill), may not be effective for women who weigh over 176lbs, according to HRA Pharma, the French manufacturer of NorLevo. The decision to investigate the pill’s efficacy was made on the heels of research done in 2011 by Anna Glasier, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Edinburgh. Her research showed that levonorgestrel, the progestogen used in most emergency contraceptives, including Plan B and NorLevo, was ineffective for women with higher body mass index
One might infer that, with such strong evidence, health advisors here in Canada would be hastening to revise the packaging, in the interest of not misleading certain women. Especially when the particular drug has such momentous implications on a woman’s life. But it’s been all crickets and tumbleweeds at Health Canada, who hasn’t yet attempted to update its literature on the drug.
Scarier still is to think that, had HRA Pharma not released the information in Europe, Glasier’s research could have gone blissfully ignored altogether. Women deserve better transparency than this—when it comes to their bodies, when it comes to the choices they make. Information is power, and in this case, it’s sad to say, power has been eschewed for profits. We can only speculate how many women, over 176lbs, took the pill misguidedly and wondered why it didn’t work.
The story, over the past few days, has been swimming around other sites and blogs. If you know anyone whom this might affect, don’t wait for the big pharmaceutical companies to break the news—share the info. With a matter this consequential, it’s best to be as informed as possible.