From Volume 80, Number 4 (May 2007)
On August 24, 2006, after years of scientific research and politically charged debate, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) approved an application for over-the-counter (“OTC”) status for Plan B, a type of emergency contraception (“EC”) previously available only by prescription. This FDA decision came more than two years after the agency’s much criticized denial of Plan B’s OTC application in 2004. The primary criticism of the 2004 denial was that it appeared reproductive politics were interfering in the FDA’s usual scientific process. Finally science won out, however, and in August 2006, the FDA announced that Plan B’s application for OTC status would be approved for “consumers 18 years and older.” The drug will remain prescription-only for girls under eighteen years of age.
While the FDA’s approval of Plan B’s OTC application will ease access to the drug for women eighteen and older, a significant and pervasive obstacle remains for women of all ages. Although a prescription will no longer be required for those women to obtain Plan B, the medication will be available only from behind a pharmacy counter, leaving the decision of whether to dispense the drug in the hands of the pharmacist on duty. This obstacle may seem innocuous, but the reality is far different.