Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Morning After Pill Now Available Without Prescription

The U.S. Justice Department has dropped its appeal to block a ruling by a New York Federal Judge to allow easy access, over-the -counter purchase of the "Morning After" pill for birth control. The emergency contraceptive, named for women who either got caught without a contraceptive, or the condom broke, is called  Plan B One-Step.  (I guess that is when plan A fails.)  Plan B is a one dose pill of 1.5mg levonorgestrel that reduces the possibility of pregnancy.  It is to be taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex and the drug’s principal effect is to prevent ovulation, but it may also make the lining of the uterus less hospitable to a fertilized egg.

The controversy about Plan B began when HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, invoked her authority over the FDA, who had approved the drug for purchase from a pharmacy without a prescription.  Ms. Sebelius, in an unprecedented move, stated that prescription dispensing requirements should not be removed for women of all ages.  She believed younger teens should not have access to the pill without a prescription.  Many lawmakers were surprised by this reaction and criticized the Obama administration of placing politics ahead of science.

Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner said "There is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential".

The go-ahead for Plan B will be welcomed by medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Adolescent Health.  They had denounced HHS' decision and said, "As physicians who care for our nation's children, it is our responsibility to protect the health of our teenage patients, and an unintended pregnancy can have significant implications for adolescents' physical and emotional health."

Women who have unprotected intercourse have about one chance in 20 of becoming pregnant. Those who take Plan B within three days cut that risk to about one in 40.  According to the New York Times, as of now, half of all pregnancies are unplanned, more than 40 percent of children are born to unwed mothers, and 1.2 million abortions are performed every year involving one in every 50 women of reproductive age.

Margaret Sanger would be happy.

3 comments:

Kellie said...

Thanks for the informative, straightforeward post Dr. Brayer.

James said...

This was long overdue. I still remain optimistic for a day when decisions regarding regulation of drugs, medical devices and procedures are scientifically and not politically motivated. We're mostly there, but not quite.

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