FDA Officially Moves Plan B Out From Behind The Counter

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially changed its policy on Thursday to allow women of all ages to purchase Plan B One Step, the most popular type of emergency contraception, over the counter. Plan B should be available without a prescription to all women within the next few weeks.

“It’s about time,” Chris Iseli, a spokesman for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in reference to the FDA’s announcement. “It’s taken too long to bring emergency contraception out from behind the pharmacy counter.”

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration decided to stop fighting to impose age restrictions on over-the-counter Plan B sales. In April, a federal judge ordered the Obama Administration to lift all age restrictions, citing the ongoing “political interference” in the matter — but the White House was reluctant to comply with the judge’s orders at first.

Now that the Obama Administration has agreed to adjust its policy, the FDA’s announcement marks the last step needed to ensure that women of all ages will be able to purchase the morning after pill without first getting a doctor’s note or providing proof of age.

However, the FDA’s move to expand access to emergency contraception only applies to one product: Plan B One Step, which is manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals. Other brands of the contraceptive, like two-step versions of the morning after pill, will remain behind the counter for young women. The federal judge who ordered the Obama Administration to change its stance on emergency contraception has also criticized the government’s current “sweetheart arrangement” with Teva, which is set to have a total monopoly on over-the-counter Plan B sales. Although Teva maintains that it will not hike the price of its product — which currently retails for about $60 — the generic two-step version can cost about $20 or $30 less. For the first three years that Plan B is available to women of all ages without a prescription, Teva will be allowed to maintain its exclusive hold on over-the-counter sales to younger girls.

In its press release announcing the new policy, the FDA reiterated that “Plan B One-Step will not stop a pregnancy when a woman is already pregnant and there is no medical evidence that the product will harm a developing fetus.”