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Morning after pill won't be available without a prescription

U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has declined to make the Plan B morning after pill readily available on store shelves.

As I wrote on the blog yesterday, Plan B One-Step is currently labeled over the counter for women aged 17 or older, but it is sold behind the counter. Girls aged 16 years and younger can only get the pill with a prescription.

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The maker of the drug, Teva Women's Health, had applied to the Food and Drug Administration in February to make it available over the counter to all girls of reproductive age. The FDA had recommended approval.

Sebelius said that the science has confirmed the drug to be safe and effective with appropriate use. But she wasn't sure if there was enough evidence to show that young girls would understand the label to be able to use the pill appropriately.

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Plan B contains a high dose of a hormone found in birth control pills and can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

The average age for a girl to start her menstrual cycle in the United States is 12.4 years of age, while about ten percent of girls are physically capable of bearing children by 11.1 years of age.

"It is common knowledge that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age," Sebelius said in a statement." If the application were approved, the product would be available, without prescription, for all girls of reproductive age."

Read Sebelius' letter here. What do you think about her decision? Was it the right one?

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