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412 MAYNARD STREET
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FAX: (734) 764-7084

July 29, 2004

ADVISORY
U-M experts available to discuss emergency contraception

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A recent ruling by the Food and Drug Administration not to allow emergency contraception pills to be sold over the counter has sparked controversy, including calls from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics for the FDA to reconsider.

Emergency contraception aims to prevent pregnancy after sex.

Barr Laboratories, which makes Plan B brand emergency contraception, late this month asked the FDA to reconsider approval of over the counter sales.

Associated Press coverage of that request >

University of Michigan has several faculty members available to discuss the topic:

• Matthew Boulton, a clinical associate professor of epidemiology, recently completed a study with Dr. Chidinma Arole, clinical instructor of obstetrics and gynecology, showing a 45 percent increase in distribution of emergency contraception pills in Michigan from 1996 to 2001 in clinics known as Title X, which includes Planned Parenthood and local health departments. Boulton points to these numbers as a clear demonstration of the need for ECP to be as available as possible. In another study, Boulton and colleagues examined contraceptive method use in women with unintended pregnancies in 1996-2000. Preliminary findings indicate that more than 42 percent of live births to Michigan women during that period were unwanted or mistimed pregnancies, and of those women with unwanted pregnancies, nearly 50 percent were using contraception at the time of pregnancy.  

In Boulton’s 1998 article in the American Journal of Public Health, he explained that doctors have prescribed emergency contraception since the 1970s, not long after birth control pills became widely available.

He is supportive of offering emergency contraception pills without a prescription.

Boulton is also the chief medical executive and state epidemiologist for the Michigan Department of Community Health. He serves on the board of the Michigan Association of Public Health and Preventive Medicine Physicians and is on the Executive Board of the Michigan Public Health Training Institute.

For more on Boulton, visit: http://www.sph.umich.edu/faculty/mboulton.html

Carolyn Sampselle, associate dean for research at the U-M School of Nursing, brings a feminist approach to her research on women's reproductive health. Sampselle is also a professor of women's studies and of obstetrics and gynecology..

“Hindering women’s access to emergency contraception is a tragedy waiting to happen.   Ideally this method for preventing an unwanted pregnancy should be close at hand, so it can be used in a timely fashion,” she said.

Sampselle added that if women can access emergency contraception over the counter, they are more likely to use it as soon as it is needed, when it's most effective, rather than have to wait to get a prescription.

For more on Sampselle, visit: http://www.nursing.umich.edu/faculty/sampselle_carolyn.html

Nancy Reame, the Rhetaugh Graves Dumas Professor of Nursing, serves on the board for Planned Parenthood of Southeast Michigan.

She is concerned that the FDA’s decision is motivated by politics, not by science. Reame is also troubled by those who object to over-the-counter availability of emergency contraception because they do not believe adolescents have the maturity to use these medications in a responsible way. Many over-the-counter medications require maturity to use them properly, she said, and they are readily available to anyone.

Reame is a contributor to the classic female health book “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” last updated in 1998 and currently in the process of a 2005 revision. She is a research scientist in U-M’s Reproductive Sciences Program.

For more on Reame, visit: http://www.nursing.umich.edu/faculty/reame_nancy.html

Contact: Colleen Newvine
Phone: (734) 647-4411
E-mail: cnewvine@umich.edu