Nonprescription morning-after pill seen as partial victory

If controversy truly sparks sales, then the makers of the Plan B morning-after pill should see sales skyrocket after today’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration. The regulatory agency just announced they will allow the controversial pill to be available without a prescription to women (or their partners) 18 and older, most likely by the end of the year. The pill will be dispensed only at pharmacies and purchasers must show ID to prove their age.

Plan B has been sold in the US via prescription sales since 1999. After a seven-year battle to make the pill available to women of any age without a prescription, this ruling seems to be a compromise Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc. is willing to live with — for now. Barr said it will continue to lobby for the pill to be available to minors. According to today’s decision, minors must still obtain a doctor’s prescription to get the pill, which doesn’t end pregnancy but rather prevents it from happening. If a woman takes Plan B while already pregnant, it will have no effect. In other words, this is not an abortion pill.

Planned Parenthood views the news as a partial victory. They join other advocacy groups in thinking this new non-prescription availability might halve the number of unwanted pregnancies in the US, but are still quick to note that the US has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the Western world. Of course, Plan B opponents argue that non-prescription availability to minors will only increase promiscuity.

But in 41 other countries, obtaining the morning-after pill is a non-issue as it has been done for years. In fact, there are already nine U.S. states — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Washington and Vermont — that allow women of any age to purchase Plan B directly from a pharmacy without a prescription because technically, it is the pharmacist that writes the prescription right there on the spot. (Through some research I found that pharmacy practices are regulated by individual state boards.)

What do you think of today’s FDA decision?

Author by Kristi Anderson