Birth control pill recall puts women on alert
Women are wondering if their birth control medicine worked and are buying pregnancy test kits after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a recall of a million pill packets.
The sequence of the pills in the blister packs — the 21 days of medicine and the seven days of placebo — may be out of whack because of a packaging error.
The 1 million packet recall is limited to the brand name Lo/Ovral-28 and its generic equivalent, norgestrel and ethinyl estradiol, which are manufactured by Pfizer Inc. but labeled as Akrimax Pharmaceuticals products. Physicians advise women to check the lot numbers on their packets and start using alternative forms of contraception if they have the recalled medicine.
Some women may want morning-after pills to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, but the window may have closed for that medicine to work. It’s most effective 72 hours after conception, said Dr. Helen Cavasin of Tennessee Women’s Care in Hendersonville. She advised women not to smoke or drink alcohol until they determine whether or not they are pregnant.
“They can take a pregnancy test now, but they have to realize that if conception has occurred within the last several days, that negative pregnancy test is not necessarily enough to confirm that they are not pregnant,” Cavasin said. “They would take another pregnancy test one to two weeks additionally to confirm that they are not pregnant.”
Her best advice for women who have the recalled packets is to start relying on an alternative form of birth control, such as condoms, and to contact their pharmacies and doctors for advice.
Dr. Kelly Williams of Murfreesboro Medical Clinic noted that the affected medicine is not one of the more popular forms of oral contraceptives. He does not prescribe the medicine.
It’s not unusual for women to skip a few days taking the pill, he said, but the packaging mix-up increases the likelihood of a surprise pregnancy.
“If a patient misses several days’ worth of pills, they can usually make it up by coming back on the next day,” Williams said. “What the FDA is saying here with these pills is there is not enough estrogen. If they miss a pill, they are going to be in trouble.”
And he pointed out it is possible for a woman to get pregnant when she stays on a correct pill regimen — even without a recall.
“People get pregnant on birth control. It happens.”
The packaging defects do not pose immediate health risks for those women who took the actual birth control medicine beyond 21 days, the FDA said. However, they may experience disruptions with their menstrual cycle, Cavasin said.
“During that seven days of placebo, you have your period,” she said. “With some people, their packs may have had too many days of hormones and not enough of the placebo days, which is not really actually dangerous, it just means they might skip their period or have a short period or an abnormal period.”
Pharmacists at Riverside Village Pharmacy in Inglewood and Reeves-Sain Drug Store in Murfreesboro said that as of Wednesday afternoon they had not received calls from concerned women. Both businesses also had pregnancy tests in stock.