Cochrane Review updates previous review of EC research

March 2010

March 17, 2010 – The Cochrane Review published an updated review which concluded that providing emergency contraception (EC) to women in advance of intercourse does not affect the rate of pregnancy compared to women who do not have EC on hand. The review took into account evidence from three new studies since the original review was published in 2007. Looking at 11 total publications on advance provision of EC, the review finds that advance provision has not reduced unintended pregnancy on a population level. However, the review also found that advance provision of EC did not result in an increase in risky behaviors like unprotected sex. The review underscores that all women should have timely access to emergency contraception, as EC is a safe and effective method of pregnancy prevention for individual women who use it when needed.

The release of the review coincided with Back Up Your Birth Control Day on March 24; this advocacy campaign is aimed at increasing access to EC in the US. Advocates have been focusing on pushing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise age restrictions on over-the-counter (OTC) access to EC, as these restrictions are not supported by evidence. The FDA currently requires young women under the age of 17 to obtain a prescription before obtaining EC in a pharmacy, though the panel which reviewed the OTC application in 2006 recommended approval for all ages and a federal court ordered the FDA a year ago to reconsider the age restrictions. 

To read more discussion of the review, see coverage from news outlets and blogs such as Time MagazineSalon Broadsheetthe LA Times, and BBC News. Ibis President Kelly Blanchard is a co-author of the review.