This summer, we saw some great steps forward for access to emergency contraception (EC). Just in case you haven’t been following our coverage of it or got overwhelmed by the updates, this is a breakdown of what happened this summer and what it means for EC access. It is important to be up-to-date on the issue because there is no guarantee that your pharmacist will be or that he/she will give share the current information with you.
In March of this year, Judge Edward R. Korman of Federal District Court in New York ordered the FDA make Plan B® available to 17-year-olds and urged them to reevaluate the age restriction on emergency contraception. Korman chastised the Bush administration for ignoring science and basing this policy on “political and ideological” influences.
On April 22nd 2009, the FDA announced that over-the-counter access for Plan B® would be extended to 17-year-olds, while younger people would still have to get prescriptions from their doctors. However, this did not immediately make EC more accessible, because the medication could not actually be sold to 17-year-olds over the counter until the pharmaceutical company changed the labeling.
As of September 16th 2009, newly labeled Plan B® pills are available in stores for men and women 17 and older over the counter. Women who are 16 and younger still need a prescription, which can be obtained from a doctor, family planning clinic or health department.
But they’re not the only EC pills available now. You can now get a generic version of Plan B®, called NextChoice®. The generic form has the exact same chemical composition and has the same age restrictions as Plan B®. The good news is that you could save 10% or more on EC.
If you prefer simplicity to saving money, there is another option available. Plan B One-Step® requires you to take only one pill instead of two. Plan B One-Step® works the same as the original Plan B®, and it is available with the same age restrictions. Soon enough, Plan B One-Step® will replace the original Plan B® in stores, but you will still be able to get the generic two-pill formula.
It is always good when women have more options for contraceptives, especially when they are cheaper options. However, one must remember that just because the FDA approves these medications does not mean every pharmacist is knowledgeable of the recent changes or every pharmacy will have all three types of EC in stock. Now that you know what is available, you can advocate for yourself and demand that your pharmacy provide it or refer you to a pharmacy that does.
Make sure you visit your local pharmacy and back up your birth control today!
Don’t forget about all the other things you should know about EC, like how it works, when you need it, and where to get a prescription.