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New implant `total bar on pregnancy'

A THREE-YEAR contraceptive implant, described by its manufacturers as 100 per cent successful, has become available on the National Health Service. More than 1,000 doctors and 400 nurses have been trained to administer the implant, which slowly releases hormones into the body.

The manufacturer, Organon, hopes to avoid the controversy that led last month to the withdrawal of Norplant, which was the only implant in the UK.

Clinical trials of Implanon, involving thousands of women and a total of 53,500 menstrual cycles, resulted in no pregnancies. That success rate has never been achieved with other forms of contraception.

Implanon releases a long-acting low dose of progestogen, which suspends normal ovulation because the body thinks it is already pregnant. It is inserted in the upper arm by a family doctor using local anaesthetic and the single small rod can be easily removed.

"We plan to train many more doctors and nurses, so the drug can be administered properly," said an Organon spokesman. Some of Norplant's problems stemmed from it being incorrectly inserted. Women using Norplant said their implants could not be found for removal and they suffered "endless periods", skin problems, hair loss and mood swings. Four hundred women took legal action.

Organon has been welcomed by the Family Planning Association. "Trials have been very encouraging," said a spokesman. Reported side- effects were changes to the bleeding pattern. Some women found their level of bleeding decreased or stopped, and others bled more often or frequently during their cycle.