WASHINGTON — Federal health officials approved a new type of morning-after contraceptive Friday that works longer than the current leading drug on the market.
The pill ella from the French maker HRA Pharma reduces the chance of pregnancy up to five days after sex. Plan B, the most widely used emergency contraceptive pill, begins losing its ability to prevent pregnancy within three days of sex.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug as a prescription-only birth control option. The ruling clears the way for US sales of the drug, which already is approved in Europe.
Studies of ella by its manufacturer showed the drug prevented pregnancies longer and more consistently than Plan B. In a head-to-head trial between the two drugs, women who took ella had a 1.8 percent chance of becoming pregnant, while women who took Plan B had a 2.6 percent chance. Experts tracked nearly 1,700 women who randomly received one of the two pills within three to five days of having unprotected sex.
Plan B is made by Teva Pharmaceuticals and is also marketed in several generic versions. Unlike ella, Plan B and other generic versions are available without a prescription for women 17 years and older.