Correction to This Article
A May 23 Page One article about a new birth control pill that suppresses menstruation misspelled the name of Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network.
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Birth Control Pill That Stops Periods Wins FDA Approval

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Rosa Nolasco, 38, of New York said Lybrel liberated her from the monthly torment of her period when she took it as part of a clinical trial.

"I get really severe cramps, bloating, chocolate cravings, mood swings. I would literally be in bed for a few days each month," said Nolasco, a single mother of four. "It was really nice not to have to worry about any of that."

Others said menstrual suppression could have some health benefits. For eons, women had few periods because they were either pregnant or breast-feeding for most of their reproductive years.

"We weren't supposed to have 13 natural periods year after year after year," said Linda Miller, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. "We as a society have already changed what nature intended for us."

But she said that women can accomplish the same goal more inexpensively by using generic versions of some birth control pills that have long been available.

"You don't need a brand," said Miller, who counsels women about suppressing their periods through her Web site, NoPeriod.com.

Standard oral contraceptives consist of 21 pills containing the hormones estrogen and progestin, which prevent ovulation, followed by seven dummy pills that allow menstruation. The birth control pill was originally developed to mimic a normal cycle in the belief that women would find it more acceptable, not because it would be safer or more effective at preventing pregnancy.

The FDA approved a birth control pill formulation known as Seasonale in 2003, and a similar regimen called Seasonique in 2006, both of which reduce the number of periods to four times a year.

Amy Alina of the National Women's Health Network, a Washington advocacy group, said Lybrel could offer an attractive alternative for some women. But she said she is concerned that the company is playing down the number of women who still experience bleeding while taking Lybrel.

"You still have bleeding, but you just don't know when it's going to happen," she said.

In the company's research, Lybrel eliminated bleeding in the 59 percent of women who took it for a full year. But many women stopped early, in part because they continued to experience bleeding and spotting.

Because women taking Lybrel may not know whether they are pregnant, the FDA said that they should undergo pregnancy tests if they suspect they could be. Ovulation can begin within days of discontinuing the pills.

Wyeth has not yet set a price for Lybrel.


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