By: Marie Huang
Back in December, the FDA was overruled by the presidential administration to make Plan B (levonorgestrel 1.5 mg) an over-the-counter (OTC) medication.1 We became interested in the matter, and asked our fellow students if Plan B should be available to people of all ages directly off of drugstore / supermarket shelves without a prescription. We found that an overwhelming majority of students preferred the current model – patients should present identification that states that they are > 17 years of age. We were able to get in touch with two students from opposing sides of the debate.
Alexandra Alleva, a 5th year PharmD candidate, provided us with the following insight: “The decision to maintain Plan B as inaccessible without a prescription to minors is, in my professional opinion, the most appropriate action at this time. From the pharmacist’s perspective, there is the issue of offering the proper medication counseling, for which our field is well qualified. Allowing adolescents the access to Plan B (without age restrictions) would not only deprive them of this vital person-to-person component, but it also increases the risk of medication misuse that this demographic is already prone to experiencing. Plan B is not devoid of side effects, and when considering the young age of this group, it is imperative that they know the correct dosing and instructions for effective contraception. Another issue I find with “restriction-free” OTC Plan B is from the perspective of the purchaser, who could translate the convenience into lesser ramifications. This type of contraception is a last resort and not like other OTC products. With the fragility of this subject matter, certain restrictions can help them evaluate their decisions more gravely and less haphazardly, and allow them time to weigh their choices accordingly. Unintentional childbearing at that age not only affects the mother, but it contributes to far-reaching societal and national problems for our economy and healthcare systems. The current model is encouraging; potential users of Plan B need to educate themselves on taking other precautions before having to rely on medication a convenient resort. Holding Plan B ‘behind the counter’ and as a prescription for those under age 17 will channel patients through the physician and pharmacist outlets, where the much-needed guidance, reinforcement, and healthcare services can be provided.”
Amy Findakly, also a 5th year PharmD candidate, provided us the following: “I believe Plan B should be accessible to girls who find themselves in these kinds of difficult situations, including those under 17. Young girls deal with the challenge of teen pregnancies, and shows like “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” document it. Although this is definitely a very controversial subject, Plan B can remedy accidents, such as contraception failure, and can keep these girls on the same track they were on prior to the incident. It should ultimately be the girl’s decision, of course; as we have learned, Plan B is a safe method of emergency contraception. I feel that it should be accessible to those who seek it.”
- New York Times. Plan to Widen Availability of Morning-After Pill Is Rejected. Available online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/health/policy/sebelius-overrules-fda-on-freer-sale-of-emergency-contraceptives.html. Last Accessed on 1 Feb 2012.