Women's Health: Birth Control Pill Maker Rolls Out a Chewable Version
The first chewable contraceptive, now available by prescription, might make it easier for some women to take a birth control pill. The spearmint-flavored tablet, called Femcon Fe, can be either chewed or swallowed and could be convenient for, say, travelers who need to take their pill in an airport or taxi and who don't have water handy. "Many women find they're not in the same place at the same time every day, so they tote their pills around in their purse," says Carl Reichel, president of Warner Chilcott, the pharmaceutical firm that makes Femcon Fe. "This chewable form will make it easier to take the pill on the go."
And that may help women avoid missing birth control pills. More than 11 million American women take oral contraceptives, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. When used correctly, they're about 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy; on average, though, they're about 93 to 97 percent effective because women often miss pills or don't start a new pack on time. The chewable pill will also be useful for those who are unable to swallow pills whole. "Particularly for my younger patients, chewable oral contraceptives will make taking the pill easier and more acceptable," says Andrew Kaunitz, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Florida Health Science Center in Jacksonville.
Femcon Fe is a chewable version of Ovcon 35, which has been on the market for about 30 years, and comes in a 28-day blister pack with 21 white, round tablets containing a combination of progestin and estrogen and seven brown placebos. Side effects include nausea, breast tenderness, irregular spotting, weight gain, and headaches, the same as the regular version. Oral contraceptives also increase the risk of blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke especially in women over 35 who smoke. Iron, whose scientific abbreviation is Fe, was added to the placebos to replace what's lost during menstruationan added incentive for women to take them. Research shows that those who take placebos are more likely to start their new pack on time. "It's all about compliance," Reichel says.