FDA To Permit 17-Year-Olds to Use Plan B Emergency Contraception Without PrescriptionFDA on Wednesday announced that it will allow people ages 17 and older to purchase the emergency contraceptive Plan B without a prescription, the Washington Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 4/23). In March, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in New York ordered FDA to reconsider allowing 17-year-old girls access to the morning-after pill Plan B without a prescription within the next 30 days and consider allowing access to the pill for women of all ages.
An FDA advisory panel in December 2003 recommended that Plan B, manufactured by Barr Pharmaceuticals, be sold over-the-counter. The agency in August 2006 ruled that only women older than age 18 could acquire the drug without a prescription. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed in 2005 by the Center for Reproductive Rights and other parties after FDA denied a petition seeking to make Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 3/24).
Plan B consists of a two-pill regiment that, when taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, is highly effective at preventing pregnancy. The new changes will allow women and men ages 17 and older to obtain the drug at pharmacies, hospitals and clinics after showing proof of age, the New York Times reports.
The FDA action does not mean Plan B is immediately available to 17-year-olds; the manufacturer first must submit a request. The agency said a letter has been sent to the company that makes Plan B saying that it "may, upon submission and approval of an appropriate application, market Plan B without a prescription to women 17 years of age and older" (Harris, New York Times, 4/23). It is unclear if FDA will review whether Plan B should be available to individuals younger than age 17, the Post reports (Washington Post, 4/23). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.