Contraceptive implants effective in NZ, say experts

KATE NEWTON
Last updated 05:00 07/01/2011

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Contraceptive devices that resulted in hundreds of unplanned pregnancies in Britain after being inserted incorrectly under the skin are unlikely to cause similar problems here, experts say.

Nearly 600 British women had reported unplanned pregnancies while using the contraceptive Implanon since it was authorised for use in 1999, the British medical regulatory agency said.

Most of the failures were because the matchstick-sized implant was not inserted correctly under the skin of the upper arm. When put in properly, the devices were 99.9 per cent effective. The British Government has so far paid 200,000 (NZ$409,000) in costs and damages to nine women who complained the implant had failed.

Implanon and another contraceptive implant, Jadelle, are available in New Zealand, though only Jadelle is government-subsidised. More than 3000 women have had Jadelle implants inserted since Pharmac began funding it in August.

However, the Health Ministry and other medical groups said yesterday they did not know of any concerns about the implants in New Zealand.

Stewart Jessamine, manager of government watchdog Medsafe, said the problems with Implanon mostly related to difficulty inserting or removing the implant.

"We would like to reiterate the advice from the United Kingdom that practitioners intending to use this product should undertake training in its proper use."

Only six adverse reactions have been reported for Implanon since it was approved in New Zealand in 2007, none of them unplanned pregnancies.

Family Planning national medical adviser Christine Roke said manufacturers of Implanon and Jadelle had been "very fussy" about making sure New Zealand doctors were properly trained in inserting the devices.

Very few women would have had Implanon inserted as it cost nearly $300, compared to just $3 for Jadelle.

Women should be able to feel the implant just beneath their skin if it was inserted correctly.

"If they have any difficulty finding it, they should go back to their doctor and double-check."

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