The public health implications of the 1995 'pill scare'

Hum Reprod Update. 1999 Nov-Dec;5(6):621-6. doi: 10.1093/humupd/5.6.621.


The warning issued by the UK Committee on Safety Medicines in October 1995, followed by their 'Dear Doctor' letter of October 18, 1995, that oral contraceptive pills containing gestodene or desogestrel were associated with a higher risk of venous thromboembolism has had a negative impact on public heath. A significant number of women either switched brands or ceased contraception altogether following the announcement. National data suggest a strong association between the pill scare and a substantial increase in the number of unintended pregnancies, particularly significant among younger women, with use of oral contraception falling from 40 to 27% of under 16s between 1995-1996 and 1996-1997. The resulting cost of the increase in births and abortions to the National Health Service has been estimated at about Pound Sterling 21 million for maternity care and from Pound Sterling 46 million for abortion provision. The level of risk should, in future, be more carefully assessed and advice more carefully presented in the interests of public health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined / adverse effects*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Public Health*
  • Thromboembolism / chemically induced*
  • United Kingdom
  • Venous Thrombosis / chemically induced*


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined