If you were hoping (like the rest of us) that the morning after pill would be as accessible as condoms by now, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to wait a little longer. On May 1, the Department of Justice appealed the decision to make all forms of levonorgestral-based emergency contraception available over the counter for women of all ages. This happened just one day after the FDA approved Plan B One-Step for sale on store shelves to women 15 and older.
Back on April 5, we reported that Federal Judge Edward Korman ordered the FDA to make emergency contraceptives available over the counterÃ¢â‚¬”right next to the condoms and pregnancy testsÃ¢â‚¬”for women of all ages. The Department of Justice had 30 days to make an appeal, and they made it yesterday. Their argument: That the court did not have the authority to tell a federal agency like the FDA how they can treat a product, says Susannah Baruch, interim president and CEO of Reproductive Health Technologies Project. They asked Judge Korman for a stay, or a temporary suspension of the case. Whether or not he grants it, the DOJ can continue their appeal with the Second Circuit courts. The bottom line: It can take months for women of all ages to have complete, unburdened access to emergency contraception.
Luckily, this appeal does not affect the FDAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recent approval to sell Plan B One-Step over the counter to women age 15 years and older (a more restricted version of what the federal judge asked for on April 5). This decision came on April 30, when the FDA approved a new application by Teva (Plan B One-StepÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s manufacturer). The good news: This increases availability since you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to search for an open pharmacy counter to get the pill, and it drops the age requirement down to 15. The bad news: It still means youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to show a government-issued ID to a store clerk, which may be an issue for anyone without an ID or anyone who forgets it at home. Essentially, the age and point-of-sale restrictions are still thereÃ¢â‚¬”theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just tweaked a little. Plus, this only refers to Plan B One-Step, not the two-pill dose nor any of its generics.
You can expect to see Plan B One-Step out from behind the pharmacy counter (and available to women 15 and older) in the next few months, says Baruch. They are currently working on a new plastic packaging, which will make it easier to store on a shelf without worrying about theft or tampering. Since it is a very small and expensive product, it will likely contain an anti-theft device, placed behind an anti-theft covering, or stored behind the cashier, says Baruch. A store clerk will also require a government-issued ID at the time of purchase. While this is all super inconvenient, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still easier than searching for a 24-hour pharmacy counter.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is simply no medical justification for the FDAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s move this week or for the administrationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s refusal to follow the court order to put Plan B on the shelves,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Baruch. Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is only political interference in scientific decision-making, and we will continue to fight for full access to emergency contraception for every womanÃ¢â‚¬”every woman without restrictionsÃ¢â‚¬”when and where she needs it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In the meantime, keep checking back for the latest coverage of these proceedings.
photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock More from Women's Health:
FDA Approves Plan B One-Step For Sale Over the Counter
The Morning After Pill May Soon Be Over the Counter
6 Things You Need to Know About the Morning After Pill