Many women don’t use contraceptives correctly while taking ‘Category X’ drugs


Many medications have not been tested for safety for use during pregnancy or are known to increase the risk of birth complications or birth defects if used during pregnancy. But a new survey found that 40% of reproductive-age women using a “Category X” medication along with an oral contraceptive are not using the contraceptive properly and are risking pregnancy.

Medco Research Institute scientists examined a large database of prescription drug orders to find women who filled prescriptions for Category X drugs -- medications that are deemed unsafe to take during pregnancy -- and who were also prescribed oral contraceptives. They found refill patterns that suggest the women do not adhere to their birth control regimen any better than women in the general population despite the risk from exposure to Category X drugs.

A shocking 6% of U.S. pregnancies occur among women receiving medications that are known to cause birth defects. Despite efforts by the federal government to improve drug labeling to warn against use of drugs that may cause fetal harm, it appears that many women may not be aware of the risks, said the lead author of the study, Amy Steinkellner, of the Medco Women’s Health Therapeutic Resource Center. “[T]hey may not understand that to be effective, oral contraceptives must be taken on a nearly perfect, consistent basis,” she said in a news release. Oral contraceptives are recommended for use with Category X drugs because they are the most effective.


Examples of Category X drugs include some types of sedatives, sleep aids, statins to control cholesterol and retinoids used to treat acne.

More information on the safe use of medications during pregnancy can be found at this Food and Drug Administration website. The study appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

-- Shari Roan / Los Angeles Times

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