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Plan B's Problem With Heavier Women Isn't News in Europe

Tablet production at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.'s headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel in 2011
Tablet production at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.'s headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel in 2011Photograph by Adam Reynolds/Bloomberg

When Teva Pharmaceuticals gained exclusive rights from the Food and Drug Administration to market Plan B One-Step as an over-the-counter emergency contraceptive for “all women of child-bearing potential” this year, advocates considered it a victory for reproductive rights. But a new labeling change for an identical drug in Europe now raises the prospect that the treatment may not work for women weighing more than 165 pounds.

The FDA is currently reviewing the research into the European drug, Norlevo, but if its U.S. counterpart also loses efficacy for heavier women it would come as a significant challenge. The average weight among women ages 20 and older is 166.2 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PDF). About 60 percent of women in the U.S. are overweight, of which more than one-third are obese.