New data brief: Women’s knowledge of emergency contraceptive pills (DHS data)

To seek out emergency contraception, women must know that the option of using a contraceptive method AFTER sex exists. Need for EC is often unplanned and urgent but the time frame for use is short. Therefore, individual knowledge or awareness of emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) is a crucial precursor to their use.

ICEC has analyzed results from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and has published a new data brief, highlighting trends on women’s knowledge of emergency contraception. Country data for the years 2008-2015 were analyzed.

In 35 countries, a majority of women do not know that EC exists: less than a quarter of women have ever heard of ECPs. At a global level, although knowledge of EC is low, knowledge within countries has increased slightly. More concentrated efforts are needed to increase awareness of ECPs.

View ICEC’s analysis more closely in this new publication:

Successful campaign to lower EC prices in the UK

We would like to congratulate the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) for their successful UK campaign to reduce the price of LNG EC and make it available directly on shelves in pharmacies. In November of last year, they launched their campaign “Just Say Non”, which highlights the high price of EC in the UK when compared to other prices in other parts of Europe. The campaign video can be seen at this link: In the UK, LNG EC can only be obtained from behind the counter after a consultation with a pharmacist and costs up to £30. Whereas in other parts of Europe, for instance France, EC costs five times less and can be bought for only 7 Euro.

The campaign wrote to four of the top retailers in the UK asking them to review their pricing strategy of generic EC last year. Retailers continue to sell generic brands of EC at the same high price as when the first brand of EC, Levonelle, came onto the market in 2003. Two of the four retailers agreed to lower the price, and Superdrug announced last week the launch of a generic ECP for half the price of other EC on the market. This story was featured in multiple UK papers like this one:

ellaOne will switch back to prescription-only in Poland

This past Saturday, June 24th, the President of Poland signed a bill that will change the status of the only EC pill currently available without a prescription in the country.

Previously, both UPA and LNG EC pills in Poland were available with prescription only, until the European Medicines Agency decided that the UPA ECP (“ellaOne” brand) should be made available without a prescription throughout Europe, in 2015. Since then, ellaOne has been available without a prescription while LNG brands still required a prescription.

The recent bill counteracts the European Medicines Agency ruling; when the new law goes into effect in August 2017, it will end access to prescription-free UPA EC pills in Poland; all EC pills will again require a prescription.

ICEC and many leading organizations recommend that EC be available without a prescription; the method is completely safe for women to select and take themselves, and is more effective the sooner it is taken. Prescription requirements are onerous and can add both expense and time delays to the process of obtaining emergency contraception. Prescription requirements can be especially detrimental to survivors of sexual assault. More information can be found in this article: Poland makes emergency contraception a prescription- only drug – even for rape survivors

Ulipristal acetate form of emergency contraception added to WHO’s Essential Medicines List

The World Health Organization announced on Tuesday June 6th the release of the 20th Model List of Essential Medicines (known as the “Essential Medicines List” or EML). The WHO’s list is updated every two years and provides guidance for the selection of medicines by countries and donors. Many countries have adopted the concept of “essential medicines” for their populations and issue their own EMLs, which influence which drugs are made available in health systems.

Ulipristal acetate (UPA) 30 mg was added to the newly released EML, joining levonorgestrel .75 mg (pack of 2), and levonorgestrel 1.5 mg. This inclusion is an indication that both the LNG and UPA forms of emergency contraceptive pills are now considered “essential.” UPA emergency contraception, sold under the brand name “ella” or “ellaOne” by HRA Pharma, offers women the choice of a method that may be more effective than LNG, because it works closer to ovulation (after the start of the LH surge, when LNG is no longer effective). There is also evidence that UPA may be a better choice for heavier women (those with BMI >30kg/m2) for whom LNG EC may be ineffective.

Emergency Contraception under threat in Poland

Our European Consortium listserv has seen a lot of traffic on a recent issue in Poland, and we wanted to provide our wider community with a summary of what is going on:

  1. Until 2015, both forms of emergency contraceptive pills were available in Poland only with a prescription from a physician. Prescriptions may not be written to those under 18 without parental consent.
  2. A decision was made by the European Commission in 2015 to allow ellaOne (a form of emergency contraceptive pill made with the active ingredient Ulipristal Acetate) to be sold without a prescription. In theory, this European-wide decision should apply to all members of the European Union.
  3. From 2015 until now, UPA EC has been available behind the counter from pharmacies for young women and girls aged 15 years and older. This means that UPA EC is available without a prescription but is not on the shelves and needs to be requested in order to purchase. The older form of ECP, LNG EC, remains available only by prescription.
  4. Legislators in Poland recently decided to go against the European Commission and introduced a bill to again require ellaOne be again sold with a prescription. This bill passed and has now been submitted to the President for signature.
  5. Misinformation about how EC works seems to be common among Polish parliamentarians who supported this bill; this factsheet from ICEC explains the difference between emergency contraception and medical abortion (also available in French and Spanish).
  6. The sooner emergency contraception is taken, the more effective it is. Requiring women to visit a doctor to seek a prescription before they access it will likely delay access and add cost.

Please see statements from Astra Network, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

EC Counseling Tool Available Online

The European Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ECEC) recently made available the electronic version of the EC wheel on their website. The wheel, a counseling tool for health providers, including pharmacists, aims to strengthen the quality of EC counseling and promote women’s choice in post-coital contraception.

The EC wheel is based on WHO and the UK Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare recommendations for EC use. The methods included are the copper IUD and levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate EC pills. Recommendations are provided based on which method is preferable to use in a number of circumstances. Clarifications and brief recommendations on additional protection after EC use and QuickStart are included on the back of the wheel.

For more information, see the Partner Publications section of our website or visit ECEC’s website.

Video: Stakeholders Meet to Develop National Guidelines for EC in Nigeria

In February 2017, ICEC’s Senior Technical Officer Melissa Garcia attended the stakeholders’ workshop in Abuja, hosted by the Federal Ministry of Health, to develop a National Guideline for EC in Nigeria. In this video interview conducted by the Association for Reproductive and Family Health, Melissa explains this process and why it is a particularly opportune moment for EC in Nigeria. In Nigeria, EC pills have been available for over 20 years in the private and social marketing sectors, and they will soon become available in the public sector for the first time.

Every Hour Matters Campaign Resources for Post-Rape Care

Together for Girls, along with partners PAHO, WHO, UN Women, Women Deliver, Save the Children USA, Care International, Child Helpline International, Jhpiego, SafeTrek, BD, and Cummins & Partners have developed new Every Hour Matters campaign resources.

The Every Hour Matters campaign aims to increase awareness about the critical importance of quickly accessing post-rape care. The resources are available here in English, Spanish, French, and Swahili. Included among the resources is “Every Hour Matters After Rape,” an infographic on emergency contraception and post-exposure prophylaxis; “A Call for Post-Rape Care;” “What National Leaders Need to Know about Post-Rape Care;” “Key Considerations for Creating a National Post-Rape Care Campaign;” and “Resources for Post-Rape Care.” Please visit the Partner Publications section of our website for more information in English, and click here for the resources in French.

Blog Post on EC: EC is a simple part of post-rape care, why is it not routinely provided?

Melissa Garcia of ICEC and Sarah Rich of the Women’s Refugee Commission co-authored a blog post on the Sexual Violence Research Initiative’s website about EC and post-rape care, which can be read here. EC has particularly critical relevance for post-rape care since it can reduce the risk of pregnancy following unprotected sex, including forced sex, but it is not systematically provided to survivors, which violates their human rights. The blog piece discusses the most crucial barriers to EC access for sexual violence survivors, including policy, legal, and regulatory barriers; facility protocols and provider biases; and women’s low level of knowledge of EC and delayed care-seeking. As these barriers are often exacerbated in crisis settings, the blog piece calls for new approaches for ensuring that survivors receive EC.