Aug. 25, 2006 – The Food and Drug Administration yesterday announced it had approved an emergency contraceptive for over-the-counter sale to men and women age 18 and older. The decision was years in the making and fraught with accusations of political interference.
Plan B, the approved drug, is manufactured by Barr Pharmaceuticals and prevents pregnancy 89 percent of the time if taken by a woman within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. The sooner the pills are taken, the more effective they are.
Reproductive-rights groups, while applauding the decision as a landmark in the fight for access to contraception, criticized the FDA for continuing to require that women under age 18 obtain a doctorâ€™s prescription for Plan B, also known as the "morning-after pill." The restriction flies in the face of recommendations from an expert advisory panel convened by the FDA itself. The scientists overwhelmingly determined the contraceptive was safe for sale to customers of all ages.
Under the FDAâ€™s approval of the drug, Plan B will be kept behind the counter at pharmacies; customers will have to show proof of age in order to purchase it. Advocates of broader access to the emergency contraceptive worry that the loss of anonymity will discourage some women from obtaining the pills. They also point out that younger women are often at most risk of running out of time before they can acquire a prescription.
"The US has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the Western world," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Anything that makes it harder for teenagers to avoid unintended pregnancy is bad medicine and bad public policy."