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.