KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

HHS: Plan B Access Will Stay Limited

The Department of Health and Human Services announced today that the morning-after pill, known as Plan B, will continue to be kept behind the pharmacy counter and girls younger than 17 will continue to need a prescription to obtain it.

The Associated Press: "The nation's health secretary says young teenagers cannot buy the Plan B morning-after pill without a prescription - a surprise move overruling her own experts, who were preparing to let it be sold on drugstore shelves like condoms" (Neergaard, 12/7).

National Journal: "The Health and Human Services Department has overruled the Food and Drug Administration and said no to a proposal that would have allowed any women, including teens under the age of 17, to get a morning-after birth-control pill without a prescription, FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said on Wednesday. In an unusual statement, Hamburg said she had decided that certain forms of morning-after contraception would be safe for younger teens to use, and they could understand how to use them" (Fox, 12/7). 

The Washington Post: "In a rare public split within the federal government, the Health and Human Services Department overruled a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to make the drug available to anyone of any age without a restriction. ... The surprising decision is a stunning blow to some doctors, health advocates, family-planning activists, members of Congress and others to help women prevent unwanted pregnancies" (Stein, 12/7).

MSNBC: "Sebelius indicated she objected to broadening the over-the-counter availability of emergency contraceptives containing the drug levonorgestrel because girls reaching reproductive maturity at age 11 -- or even younger -- could have access to the medication"(12/7).

Reuters/The Baltimore Sun: Sebelius "said the pill's maker, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, did not present enough evidence to show that younger girls would properly understand and use the pill, made to prevent unwanted pregnancies, without talking to a doctor first" (12/7).

Bloomberg Businessweek: "The decision follows by two years a federal court ruling that age restrictions on the pill were arbitrary, based more on political pressure than safety. On Dec. 13, the FDA is scheduled to explain today's decision to the court" (Frier and Peterson, 12/7).

NPR: "Currently the product is available without a prescription only to those age 17 and over. As long ago as 2003, two FDA advisory panels recommended the product be made available over the counter without age restrictions" (Rovner, 12/7). 

The Hill: "Congressional Republicans had threatened a severe blowback if the FDA approved wider access to the drug" (Baker, 12/7).

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