Morning-after pill more effective with anti-inflammatory drug.

Morning-after pill more effective with anti-inflammatory drug.

Arthritis Medication Boosts Effectiveness of Morning-After Pill: A Promising Study

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A drug commonly used to treat arthritis pain can boost the effectiveness of the morning-after pill.

A recent study conducted by researchers from The University of Hong Kong has shed new light on emergency contraception and its effectiveness in preventing unwanted pregnancies. The study, published in the prestigious journal The Lancet, found that combining the morning-after pill with an anti-inflammatory medication commonly used for arthritis pain significantly reduces the risk of pregnancy compared to using the morning-after pill alone.

The Prevalence of Emergency Contraception

Between 2017 and 2019, 28% of women aged 15-44 in the United States reported having used emergency contraceptive pills at least once. Emergency contraceptive pills, also known as the morning-after pill or “plan B,” are most effective when taken as close to the time of intercourse as possible. However, they can be used within 5 days of unprotected sex, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is important to note that some preparations may have reduced effectiveness beyond 3 days. Despite the availability of emergency contraception, pregnancies can still occur, and the longer a person waits to take the pill after intercourse, the higher the pregnancy risk becomes.

Understanding the Morning-After Pill

The morning-after pill is a medication that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sexual intercourse to help prevent pregnancy. It is mainly intended for people assigned female at birth who have had unprotected penetrative sex or whose method of birth control has failed, such as forgetting to take a birth control pill or a condom breaking. The two main types of morning-after pills are levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate. Levonorgestrel is available over the counter without a prescription, while ulipristal acetate requires a prescription.

Both types of morning-after pills work by delaying or halting ovulation, preventing fertilization from occurring. Therefore, it is crucial to take the morning-after pill as soon as possible after unprotected sexual intercourse to maximize its effectiveness.

The Study Findings

In a study conducted by Dr. Raymond Li and his team at The University of Hong Kong, women who needed to take a morning-after pill containing levonorgestrel were divided into two groups. The first group received the morning-after pill in combination with an anti-inflammatory medication called piroxicam, commonly used to treat arthritis pain. The second group received the morning-after pill along with a placebo pill. Out of the 836 women followed up, there was only one pregnancy reported among those who took piroxicam and levonorgestrel, compared to seven pregnancies among those who had the placebo and levonorgestrel. This means that the piroxicam-levonorgestrel combination was 95% effective in preventing pregnancy, while the levonorgestrel-placebo combination was only 63% effective. Importantly, there were no significant differences in side effects between the two study groups.

Unraveling the Mechanism

The reason why an anti-inflammatory medication can enhance the effectiveness of the morning-after pill lies in its impact on prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are lipids that act like hormones in the body, playing a crucial role in various reproductive processes, including ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as piroxicam, target prostaglandins and inhibit their synthesis. By doing so, they can potentially create a contraceptive effect, amplifying the effects of the morning-after pill. However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanism behind this combination and its contraceptive effects.

The Way Forward

Dr. Li plans to conduct further research studies to explore the effectiveness of this combination compared to other current options for emergency contraception and to delve deeper into the mechanisms of action. Dr. Laura MacIsaac, a clinical professor, and associate director of the Complex Family Planning Fellowship Program in the Raquel and Jaime Gilinski Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, expressed excitement about the study’s findings. She highlighted the lower pregnancy risk associated with adding piroxicam to the levonorgestrel morning-after pill. However, Dr. MacIsaac cautioned against long-term high-dose use of anti-inflammatory drugs, which can have adverse effects on the stomach and gastrointestinal tract.

Moving forward, researchers should focus on replicating this protocol with a more diverse patient population and exploring the effectiveness of the prostaglandin inhibitor alone in blocking pregnancy. This additional research will provide women with valuable information to make informed decisions regarding pregnancy prevention at the time of intercourse, especially for those who choose not to be on continuous or long-acting birth control methods.

Overall, this study offers promising insights into the use of arthritis medication to enhance the effectiveness of the morning-after pill. By combining these two medications, there is potential for greater contraceptive protection and a reduced risk of unwanted pregnancies.