The contraceptive pill – aka 'the pill' – launched in the UK back in 1961, and since then, millions of us have used it, whether that's to prevent unwanted pregnancies, reduce period pain or improve our skin.
Despite the benefits of taking the pill, as with anything, there are downsides too. Although rare, side effects of the most popular contraceptives – like Microgynon, Yasmin and Cerazette – include an increased risk of breast cancer, irregular bleeding and blood clots.
But, a new pill on the market could be about to change that, and experts are currently monitoring those taking it to see if it reduces the side effects of blood clots. So, while we wait for the male contraceptive pill to finally make an appearance, here's what you need to know about the UK's new pill, Drovelis.
What is Drovelis?
Drovelis is a new type of combined contraceptive pill, meaning it contains both oestrogen and progestogen. It has been likened to Yasmin and Lucette, but unlike these popular pills, Drovelis is made with a new type of oestrogen called estretrol instead of ethinylestradiol.
"Combined oral contraceptive pills, which we normally just call 'the pill', contain artificial versions of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone," explains a spokesperson at British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). "The difference between Drovelis and existing methods is that it contains estretrol, which is a synthetic version of an oestrogen that is naturally present during pregnancy. Estetrol has not previously been used in hormonal contraceptives."
Does Drovelis reduce the risk of blood clots?
As mentioned, Drovelis is made with a new type of oestrogen called estretrol – this is a synthetic version of a substance produced by the fetal liver and present in the blood of pregnant women.
Estretrol is significantly less potent than ethinylestradiol (10 to 20 times less potent, in fact), leading some experts to believe it could reduce the risk of blood clots. However, BPAS tells Cosmopolitan UK that: "In terms of safety, the side effects of Drovelis are similar to those of other combined hormonal contraceptives."
"Combined hormonal contraceptives (CHC) are overall very safe for most women to take – the very small increased risk of venous thrombosis (VTE) with use of the combined pill is far lower than the risk for VTE during or after pregnancy," the spokesperson added, noting that: "There is no data to suggest that Drovelis carries a lower or higher risk of VTE."
With that in mind, there's no definitive answer right now as to whether Drovelis can reduce the risk of blood clots. But researchers are going to monitor people using Drovelis over the next few years to see if it reduces instances of side effects like blood clots – so watch this space!
How do you take Drovelis?
Drovelis comes in a packet of 28 pills, made up of 24 'active' pills (which contain hormones), and 4 'inactive' placebo pills (which don’t contain any hormones). If taken correctly according to the instructions, then you may have a withdrawal bleed, like a period, on the days you take the placebo pills.
Is Drovelis available in UK?
In 2021, the European Medicines Agency authorised Drovelis for use in the EU but it has only just become available in the UK as it needed to go through our own medicine regulatory body.
Final thoughts on Drovelis
"Ultimately, more contraceptive choice is a positive for women," BPAS' spokesperson says. "However, rather than tinkering with the existing combined hormonal methods, it would be brilliant if we could see greater innovation in new methods, from the male pill to biodegradable implants."
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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