Birth Control Pill Halts Women's Periods

Birth control pills. (Image credit: stock.xchng)

WASHINGTON — A new U.S.-developed birth-control pill can halt women's menstrual periods indefinitely.

Called Lybrel, the pill is expected to win government approval Tuesday, becoming the latest approved oral contraceptive to depart from the traditional 21-days-on, seven-days-off regimen that has been standard since first birth control pills were sold in the 1960s. But the pill from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals is the first designed to be taken continuously.

Lybrel contains the lowest dose of two hormones widely used in birth-control pills, ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel.

Taking the pill daily would let women suppress their monthly bleeding indefinitely. However, unanticipated breakthrough bleeding may occur in some women.

If Lybrel wins FDA approval, Wyeth plans to start sales in July. The company declined to say what it would cost.

Most of the roughly 12 million U.S. women who take the pill do so to prevent pregnancy. But others rely on hormonal contraceptives to curb acne or regulate their monthly periods. Other nontraditional pills like Yaz and Loestrin 24 shorten monthly periods to three days or less. Seasonique, an updated version of Seasonale, reduces them to four times a year.