Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Plan B

On Thursday, April 4, a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York ruled that the morning-after pill must be made available over the counter to girls 16 and under. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had decided in 2011 that Plan B One Step should be allowed for sale without a prescription and without age requirements. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius overruled the decision citing that abolishing the age requirements and the necessity for a prescription that children as young as 11 could get the morning after pill. President Barack Obama defended Secretary Sebelius's decision citing his responsibility as a father of two daughters. Side note: That was a glorious press conference where he said "ask Osama bin Laden" about his being too soft in foreign policy.

The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) reviewed the application to allow Plan B to be sold over the counter. They considered whether younger females were able to understand how to use Plan B. "Based on the information submitted to the agency, CDER determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider."

According to Susan Wood, associate professor at George Washington University's Scool of Public Health, "doctors and researchers have repeatedly stated, ample research shows Plan B to be safe for women of all ages and appropriate for over-the-counter access."

Allowing Plan B to be able to be purchased over the counter or without a prescription decreases the stigma of purchasing emergency contraception. It is likely to be purchased by younger females (<17) but also older females who no longer have to ask the pharmacist for the emergency contraception. I am not a female, so I've never had to purchase birth control outside of condoms. Besides the condom dance, of standing around the condoms and debating which ones to purchase and carefully not making eye contact with anyone who is walking by, and when they walk by pretend you're buying whatever is on the shelf next to them (usually heartburn medicine), there was no requirement. I never had to show any identification to purchase them nor was I required to talk to anybody about it. So why is it that when females want birth control that it requires you to be a certain age or to have a prescription?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists argues that oral contraceptives for women should be allowed for women over the counter. Their short paper on the issue explains it in a much better way than I could.

As noted by a Facebook friend, there is concern about the hormones in oral contraceptives that could potentially be dangerous. The ACOG does not address this issue in their paper. This could potentially be a major sticking point. If it is a major concern, the question should be addressed by the ACOG as to if the hormones are actually potentially dangerous or if those risks outweigh the benefits outlined in the paper linked above. Yes, the answer my friend supplied is something that I would say is a good answer to my question about why women should be required to have a prescription. Strangely, it is the first time I've seen it brought up. I've read politicians talk about how our values are declining if we allow Plan B to be purchased over the counter, when you have to be a certain age to get Sudafed. All sorts of arguments like that.

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