UPDATE: Plan B One-Step emergency contraception is now available over the counter without a prescription or age restrictions. Here's what we know about it so far!
After years of legal back and forth, it looks like Plan B One-Step—and possibly generic versions of it as well—will finally be available over the counter to all.
A little background...
Back in December of 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that Plan B One-Step, a popular form of emergency contraception (EC) , is safe and effective for women and girls of all ages and recommended lifting an age restriction that said anyone under 17 needed a prescription to get it. In an unexpected turn of events, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius, decided to keep the age restriction in place in spite of the FDA's recommendations. More than a year later, a federal judge has ruled that the age restriction needs to be lifted.
This is big news for all of us.
This isn't just about people under 17. Making EC available without a prescription means it can be sold "off the shelf" in drugstores, supermarkets, big box retailers—maybe even convenience stores and gas stations (next to the toothpaste and aspirin, as we put it when we wrote about this last year).
There's a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about EC in general—and about who can access it. The current "behind the counter" status of EC means even those 17 and over are dependent on pharmacy employees, who research has found don't always have their facts straight, to access EC.
Levonorgestrel-based EC options like Plan B One-Step and Next Choice get less effective the longer you wait to take them, so delays due to misinformed pharmacists, lack of ID, or short pharmacy hours can have a major effect on the chances that someone who needs EC will take it in time to prevent a pregnancy.
The FDA has 30 days to make EC available without a prescription and without point-of-sale or age restrictions. We'll be keeping an ear to the ground to see how this change plays out in the real world.