Searle could begin to offer female contraceptive patch

Rachel Rosmarin

Searle Student Health Service will soon begin determining if it will offer Ortho Evra, the first female contraceptive patch the Food and Drug Administration has approved, Searle administrators said Thursday.

For Searle to offer a new drug, Northwestern’s Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Committee determines if the drug company will agree to a reasonable purchasing contract, said Mary Croisant, a women’s health nurse practitioner at Searle. Then the committee presents its findings to the administration.

“I am planning to bring Ortho Evra to the committee,” Croisant said. “If they can get an acceptable price to the administration, it will fly right through the committee. If there is a product we want to offer, we’ve never been refused before.”

To prevent ovulation and pregnancy, the Ortho Evra patch transmits steady levels of progestin and estrogen, the same hormones found in birth control pills, into the bloodstream through the skin. The patch also has similar side effects as the pill, with some cases of skin irritation around the patch site.

Each month’s prescription contains three patches, and a woman would wear each adhesive patch for one week, placing the patches in slightly different places on her body such as the lower abdomen or buttocks. In the fourth week, during her menstrual period, she would not wear a patch.

Manufacturer Ortho-McNeil plans to begin selling the drug in the next six months, said Kellie McLaughlin, director of global pharmaceutical communications for Ortho-McNeil. The price for a month’s worth of Ortho Evra has not yet been established but will be comparable to popular birth control pills, McLaughlin said.

Searle currently offers the injectable female contraceptives Depo-Provera and Lunelle, in addition to various pill forms of birth control. It does not offer Norplant, a surgical implant that last for several years, because NU’s insurance plan does not cover the expensive alternative, Croisant said. Another option is NuvaRing , a vaginal ring that emits hormones for a month, but women are unlikely to want something that invasive, Croisant said.

The patch would be convenient for some NU women who already use birth control, said Emily Hagenmaier, a peer health educator and a health aide.

“You’re supposed to take the pill the same time every day, ” said Hagenmaier, a Education and Weinberg sophomore. “But that’s difficult as a college student; your schedule is so erratic. That’s why people like Depo-Provera, but you have to get a shot every three months. People would consider the patch because it is non-invasive, and it works just like the pill but it’s only once a week.”

Searle has not yet seen a demand for the patch, Croisant said, because students have not received information about it yet.

Hagenmaier said women should get information about their birth control options because people react differently to the varying amounts of hormones in doses and prescriptions.

If Searle does not ultimately carry the patch, students should look to distributors such as Planned Parenthood, Hagenmaier said.

Planned Parenthood plans to offer Ortho Evra at all seven of its health centers in the Chicago area, including the one at 6353 N. Broadway St. in Rogers Park, according to the center’s December newsletter.