By Joshua Nicholson

That time of the month again? Not if you’re using Lybrel, the new prescription contraceptive that eliminates a woman’s monthly period. The drug, approved by the FDA on May 22, is raising concern and questions amongst women and even men.

“Lybrel is the first and only low-dose combination contraceptive pill taken 365 days a year, without a placebo phase or pill-free interval,” said Danielle Halstrom, spokesperson for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, the company that manufactures the drug.

The drug has raised mixed feelings across the country. A New York Times article published on April 20 addressed concerns over the release of the pill. In a forum on the paper’s website, the question was posed, “Would you consider taking [Lybrel]?” Responses were fairly split, with about half of responders saying yes and the other half no. In the forum, some men even offered arguments why Lybrel is a good idea.

Concern is evident here at UC Santa Cruz as well. With release of the pill set for July, it remains to be seen how many women will take this new alternative.

“It seems unnatural to me,” third-year economics and Latin American Studies major Rocio Maldonado said. “I don’t want to be part of the guinea pig generation for this new drug.”

Whether or not the new pill is safe, the period plays another role for some women.

Second-year Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major Danielle Jordan said, “I like having a monthly reminder that I’m not pregnant.” Like Maldonado, she worries there has not been enough research conducted.

An independent survey, however, found that 97 percent of obstetricians and gynecologists thought the drug was safe.

The flipside that even many women are unaware of is the fact that a period on the pill is no period at all.

“It is a pseudo period that mimics a real period — it is not real,” said Dr. Mary Zavanelli, instructor of the female physiology class here at UCSC.

Normal 28-day contraceptive cycles — 21 days on the pill and 7 days off — induce a bleeding caused by the sudden drop of hormone levels, not the uterine lining being shed.

Lybrel, like all contraceptives, blocks ovulation, which stops uterine lining from being built up. It also stops the sudden decrease in hormones because it is taken continuously, and thus eliminates bleeding.

Zavanelli added, “For the vast majority of women, statistically speaking, [Lybrel] will be fine.” She also voiced her concern that with benefits come risks, something applicable to all drugs.

The new pill, which is similar to most contraceptives, is made of the same two active ingredients: ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel.

From the point of view of a woman, Zavanelli said, “Personally, I think it is the best idea to come forth in a long time.” As a biologist, she felt, “It is still early to tell, but there is probably no problem. As with everything, take it with a grain of salt.”