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‘Morning after’ pills to carry warning labels for heavier women

Morning after pill
Boxes of Norlevo emergency contraceptive are sold in a pharmacy, west of Paris, Tuesday Nov. 26, 2013. Health Canada says it is studying the effectiveness of the so-called "morning after" contraceptive pills in the wake of news they don't as well in larger women. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Remy de la Mauviniere

TORONTO – Health Canada is telling sellers of the “morning after” contraceptive pill to slap labels on their products that warn women of reduced effectiveness if the user weighs more than 165 pounds.

Plan B, Next Choice, Norvelo and Option 2 are currently available across the country without a prescription, but the federal agency is warning consumers that depending on their weight, it may not work.

Morning after pills, used to prevent pregnancy, are typically taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex or a “contraceptive accident” as Health Canada calls it.  The pills have a higher dose of levonorgestrel compared to regular birth control pills and prevent ovulation or fertilization of an egg.

But if the pill’s user weighs 165 to 176 pounds, its efficacy wanes. It’s virtually ineffective for women who weigh more than 176 pounds, Health Canada said. Read the full notice here.

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READ MORE: Health Canada studying ‘morning-after’ pill after questions about its efficacy

“Women who weigh 165 pounds or more are advised to ask a health professional, such as a doctor or pharmacist, for advice on alternative methods of emergency contraception,” Health Canada said on its website.

Earlier this year, Ottawa said it was studying the effectiveness of the pill on the heels of reports that a French manufacturer, HRA Pharma, said its emergency contraception pill doesn’t work in women who weigh more than 176 pounds.

By January, the European Medicines Agency said it was investigating the efficacy of the contraceptive.

Right now, the Canadian products don’t have warning labels. But drug manufacturers have received requests from Health Canada about making this update to their packaging.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca