Parenting News

Pharmacists under fire for failing to warn emergency contraceptive pill affected by weight

“I love, and adore, and idolise my daughter, and in hindsight, I am so glad the pill did not work, but I took the ECP to prevent a pregnancy.”

Women seeking the emergency contraceptive pill from pharmacies or health clinics may not be aware their weight needs to be taken into consideration in order for the pill to be fully effective in preventing a pregnancy.
The Sunday Star Times has revealed pharmacists and other health services prescribing the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) to women who weigh more than 70 kilograms may need to refer patients to their GP or Family Planning Clinic for further consultation.
Terrie Cadlow told Fairfax she was unaware that when she sought the ECP last May her weight needed to be taken into consideration.
The 33-year-old – who was over 70 kgs at the time - had been prescribed the pill at a sexual health clinic in Tauranga. She explains the pill didn’t work for her, and she now has a five month old daughter.
"It's crazy to think that was the difference between a baby or no baby," says Cadlow. Photo: Getty Images
An earlier report by Fairfax states Medsafe issued a warning over the morning-after pill in 2014.
Concerns were raised after research showed the ECP levonorgestrel – currently available in New Zealand - was limited in its efficacy in preventing pregnancies for women over 70 kgs and unlikely to work at all for women who weighed more than 80kgs.
Following this, the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand issued its own guidelines showing the risk of pregnancy was three times as high for women with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.
While the morning-after pill is accessible over-the-counter through pharmacies, those seeking it must first undergo a consultation with a pharmacist to assess their condition.
During the consultation, pharmacists are able to explain how the pill works, as well as offer information.
The Pharmacy Council's best practice guidelines state: “pharmacists must ensure that all necessary advice and information is provided in an appropriate manner to enhance a woman’s understanding, to enable her to make an informed choice”.
The guidelines also suggest women should be referred to their doctor if there are concerns the ECP may not be effective.
Medsafe general manager Chris James says a review of the issue has found inconclusive evidence, however, he notes: “women should be informed that levonongestrel may not be effective for women with increased body weight.”