Emergency contraceptives

  • Procedure started
  • Under evaluation
  • CHMP opinion
  • European Commission final decision
Current status:
European Commission final decision


On 24 July 2014, the European Medicines Agency concluded its review of emergency contraceptives containing levonorgestrel or ulipristal acetate to assess whether increased bodyweight affects the effectiveness of these medicines in preventing unintended pregnancy following unprotected sexual intercourse or contraceptive failure. The Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended that these emergency contraceptives could continue to be used in women of all weights as the benefits were considered to outweigh the risks.

In November 2013, following a national procedure, the product information of one emergency contraceptive containing levonorgestrel, Norlevo, was updated on the basis of results from two clinical studies to state that Norlevo is less effective in women weighing 75 kg or more and not effective in women weighing more than 80 kg. An EU-wide review was then started to assess whether similar information should be included in the product information for other emergency contraceptives that contain levonorgestrel, and for ellaOne, an emergency contraceptive that contains ulipristal acetate.

Having assessed all the available evidence on the effectiveness of emergency contraceptives, the CHMP considered that the data available are too limited and not robust enough to conclude with certainty that contraceptive effect is reduced with increased bodyweight, as stated in the product information for Norlevo. For levonorgestrel-containing products, some clinical studies have suggested a reduced effectiveness in women with high bodyweight, but in others no trend for a reduced effect with increasing bodyweight was observed. Similarly, for ulipristal acetate, although limited data from clinical trials suggest a possible trend for a reduced contraceptive effect, the data are too limited and insufficiently precise to draw definite conclusions. The CHMP recommended that the results of these studies should be included in the product information of emergency contraceptives, but that the statements on the impact of bodyweight in the product information for Norlevo should be deleted.

The CHMP considered that, with side effects generally mild, the safety profile of emergency contraceptives is favourable and they can continue to be taken regardless of the woman's bodyweight. Women should be reminded that emergency contraceptives should be taken as soon as possible following unprotected sexual intercourse. They should only be used as an occasional 'rescue' method as they do not work as well as regular contraceptive methods.

The CHMP recommendation was sent to the European Commission, which issued a legally binding decision valid throughout the EU on 30 September 2014.

Key facts

Approved name
Emergency contraceptives
International non-proprietary name (INN) or common name

levonorgestrel, ulipristal acetate

Associated names
  • Norlevo
  • Levonelle/Postinor and Levodonna
  • ellaOne
Reference number
Article 31 referrals

This type of referral is triggered when the interest of the Union is involved, following concerns relating to the quality, safety or efficacy of a medicine or a class of medicines.

European Commission final decision
Opinion date
EC decision date

All documents

Document description

  • Questions and answers (Q&A) - easy-to-understand summary of key issues and Committee conclusions
  • Summary of Opinion - contains the CHMP opinion of the referred medicine(s)
  • List of the medicines affected by the referral (Annex I)
  • Scientific conclusions of the Committee (Annex II)

The following two documents are sometimes available:

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