Women in the UK can now get access to a new, first-in-class contraceptive pill following the nationwide launch yesterday of Bayer Schering Pharma’s Qlaira.

Qlaira (estradiol valerate/dienogest) is the first combined oral contraceptive pill that delivers the same oestrogen as is produced naturally by women’s ovaries, which some believe gives the product the potential to be ‘easier’ on the body’s metabolism and liver than current pills on the market.

Explaining its potential appeal, Dr Diana Mansour, Head of Contraception and Sexual Health Specialist in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, noted that “women are increasingly looking for more natural options for their health needs, and contraception is no different”, and she claimed that Qlaira could help address some of these concerns “as it offers the confidence of reliable contraception and the reassurance of using a contraceptive delivering oestrogen, which is identical to that which occurs naturally in their body”.

Bayer Schering Pharma was given the regulatory seal of approval for Qlaira in December last year on the back of data from clinical trials involving more than 2,200 women, which showed the pill to be generally well-tolerated and over 99% effective in preventing unplanned pregnancy when taken as directed.

More benefits?
Furthermore, the group claims the drug is associated with “significantly less bleeding/spotting days and a shorter, lighter withdrawal bleed, and has comparable intra-cyclic bleeding” compared with another combined oral contraceptive.

Previous attempts to replace the ethinylestradiol component of conventional pills with a naturally occurring form of oestrogen have been unsuccessful, and the company will be hoping that this novel attribute will give Qlaira – which is expected to pull in annual sales of around 500 million euros - an edge over its competitors in the contraceptive arena.