Comparison of the Availability of Contraceptive Methods in Selected European Countries and the United States


The decision about whether or not to develop most pharmaceutical products is largely based upon market and scientific research, but contraceptive products are different. Development decisions about contraceptive products are heavily influenced by political and religious beliefs in additionto market and scientific research. The influence of politics and religion with regard to contraceptives manifests itself at all levels of the development process-from generating ideas, to applying for agency approval, to actual marketing efforts-and hampers the development of new contraceptive products. The influence of politics and religion on contraceptive development is apparent in both Europe and the United States.

One issue that makes contraceptive development more difficult in the United States than in Europe is the American tort liability system. In the contraceptive field, history shows that even potential, unverified, imaginary problems with a contraceptive product can discourage a company from proceeding with development of that product. The legal dangers associated with producing contraceptives in the United States are well-known to pharmaceutical companies, and it is perhaps for this reason that an organization like the Population Council, rather than pharmaceutical companies, has been responsible for developing and testing important new contraceptive products in the United States like Norplant and the Copper (Cu) T 380A IUD.

Of course, there are several non-pharmaceutical contraceptive methods that warrant consideration. The most common non-pharmaceutical contraceptive methods are sterilization and abortion. In comparing the total contraceptive “packages” available in Europe and the United States, it is important to also consider these methods.

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