Thursday, August 24, 2006


The FDA has (finally) approved Plan B, the so-called morning after pill, for over the counter sales. This is great news!* In case you have somehow missed what the deal is with this a short synopsis.

Plan B is essentially the same stuff found in a regular birth control pill, at a different dosage. If taken within 72 hours of sex it can prevent pregnancy. It does so by preventing eggs from becoming fertilized and possibly preventing any fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterus (which by the way what IUDs do). However, unlike RU486 (often referred to as the abortion pill) it does not interfere with embryos that are already attached. So, due to debate about at what point pregnancy (and therefore life) begins, this led to some people feeling it was an immoral drug and should not be available.

Except it was available, but only by prescription. Which was fine except that leaves out people who don't have health coverage or who may have reasons for not wanting this information on their coverage (for example, teens).

Despite the fact that the FDA's stated purpose is to evaluate safety and effectiveness of drugs (and not their morality), and despite the fact that the FDA panel that reviewed Plan B saw no reason it couldn't be offered over the counter, much as Claritin became over the counter, the commissioner ruled that they could not do that. (There was some song and dance about the irregularity of only making it available to people of a certain age, and did the FDA have that authority yada yada). So, the drug remained prescription only.

Well, acting commissioner Mr. von Eschenbach would like to have the acting bit removed from his title so has backed down and allowed it to be approved for women 18 and older.

Now some have said that it doesn't make sense to have Plan B available for some people without prescription when we still require prescriptions for the pill. And here's the difference - plan B is taken once. The pill is taken daily. The pill therefore has long term effects on the body and needs to be managed with other medications a person is taking, as well as being managed to find the best combination for each person.

I hope that eventually this will be available to everyone, regardless of age. Just as I don't think people buying condoms should be lectured, I think people trying to make the best choices for themselves should not have their ability to do so impacted by their ability to find someone to help them do that. And maybe one day that will be the case.

*I would link to the article but I read about it in the Washington Post and they require registration so go hunt it down wherever you get your news.