Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

May 1, 2013

FDA: Morning-after pill OK for ages 15 and up

WASHINGTON — The government on Tuesday lowered to 15 the age at which girls can buy the morning-after pill without a prescription and said the emergency contraception no longer has to be kept behind pharmacy counters.

The decision by the Food and Drug Administration is an attempt to find middle ground just days before a court-imposed deadline to lift all age restrictions on the drug.

Today, Plan B One-Step is sold behind pharmacy counters, and buyers must prove they’re 17 or older to buy it without a prescription. Tuesday’s decision lowers the age limit to 15 — and will allow the pill to sit on drugstore shelves next to condoms and spermicides or other women’s health products. But customers must prove their age at the cash register.

Teva Women’s Health, which makes Plan B, said it would begin over-the-counter sales in a few months.

The question is whether Tuesday’s action settles a larger court fight. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York blasted the Obama administration for imposing the age-17 limit, saying it had let election-year politics trump science and was making it hard for women of any age to obtain the emergency contraception in time. He ordered an end to all age restrictions by Monday, for Plan B and its generic versions.

The FDA said Tuesday’s decision was independent of the court case and wasn’t intended to address it. Technically, the FDA approved Teva’s application to sell Plan B in this manner.

The Justice Department remained mum on whether it planned to appeal Korman’s decision, and the White House had no immediate comment.  

The women’s group that sued over the age limits said Tuesday’s action is not enough, and it will continue the court fight if necessary.

Lowering the age limit “may reduce delays for some young women but it does nothing to address the significant barriers that far too many women of all ages will still find if they arrive at the drugstore without identification,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The FDA said the Plan B One-Step will be packaged with a product code that prompts the cashier to verify a customer’s age. Anyone who can’t provide such proof as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport wouldn’t be allowed to complete the purchase. In most states, driver’s licenses, the most common form of identification, are issued at age 16.

“These are daunting and sometimes insurmountable hoops women are forced to jump through in time-sensitive circumstances, and we will continue our battle in court to remove these arbitrary restrictions on emergency contraception for all women,” Northup said.

Other contraceptive contraception advocates called the move promising.

“This decision is a step in the right direction for increased access to a product that is a safe and effective method of preventing unintended pregnancies,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “It’s also a decision that moves us closer to these critical availability decisions being based on science, not politics.”

Social conservatives had opposed any efforts to loosen restrictions on sale of the morning-after pill, arguing that it was important for parents and medical professionals to be involved in such decisions involving young girls.

The group Concerned Women for America charged that health officials were putting politics and so-called progress ahead of the health of children as well as women.

“It makes no sense that kids need parental permission to take aspirin at school, but they’re free to buy and administer Plan B,” Penny Nance, CEO and president of CWA, said in a statement.

Half the nation’s pregnancies every year are unintended, and doctors’ groups say more access to morning-after pills could cut those numbers. The pills contain higher doses of regular contraceptives, and if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. But it works best if taken in the first 24 hours.

The FDA had been poised to lift all age limits and let Plan B sell over-the-counter in late 2011, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an unprecedented move, overruled her own scientists. Sebelius said some girls as young as 11 are physically capable of bearing children but shouldn’t be able to buy the pregnancy-preventing pill on their own.

President Barack Obama supported Sebelius’ move and a spokesman said earlier this month that the president’s position hadn’t changed.

The Justice Department could appeal Korman’s ruling and seek a stay. If granted, the appeals process would move through the courts, while Plan B is sold over the counter whenever Teva has the product repackaged to meet FDA’s requirements.

Absent a stay, “we will want to go back to court as quickly as possible and ask the judge to hold them in contempt,” said Janet Crepps, a senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The FDA said Tuesday that Teva had provided data proving that girls as young as 15 could understand how Plan B works and use it properly, without the involvement of a health care provider. Teva plans to conduct a consumer-education program, and indicated it is willing to audit whether stores are following the age requirement, the agency said.

FDA said its ruling applies only to Plan B One-Step, and not to generic versions of the pill which would remain behind pharmacy counters with the age-17 restriction.

If a woman already is pregnant, the morning-after pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg. According to the medical definition, pregnancy doesn’t begin until a fertilized egg implants itself into the wall of the uterus. Still, some critics say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it may also be able to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, a contention that many scientists — and Korman, in his ruling — said has been discredited.

 

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Obama_Stew.jpg Obama views mudslide scene

    Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month, then mourned privately with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wall Street_Stew.jpg Earnings and corporate deals lift U.S. stocks

    Corporate deals and some solid earnings reports propelled the stock market to its sixth straight gain Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economy College Gradu_Stew.jpg Job market for college grads better but still weak

    With college commencement ceremonies nearing, the government is offering a modest dose of good news for graduating seniors: The job market is brightening for new grads — a bit.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court TV On t_Stew.jpg Internet TV case: Justices skeptical, concerned

    Grappling with fast-changing technology, Supreme Court justices debated Tuesday whether they can protect the copyrights of TV broadcasters to the shows they send out without strangling innovations in the use of the internet.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1791, the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan, was born in Franklin County, Pa.

    April 23, 2014

  • Stowaway teen forces review of airport security

    A 15-year-old boy found his way onto an airport’s tarmac and climbed into a jetliner’s wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii — a misadventure that forced authorities to take a hard look at the security system that protects the nation’s airline fleet.

    April 22, 2014

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Death count in ferry sinking tops 100

    One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP520422034 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 22, the 112th day of 2014. There are 253 days left in the year.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Commission to vote to purchase new computers

    Lowndes County commissioners discussed replacing outdated computers, a bid for an emergency bypass pump, an annexation request from the City of Hahira, a juvenile justice grant application, and an appointment to the dangerous dog board.

    April 22, 2014

  • KLVB receives Governor’s Circle Recognition Award

    Keep Lowndes/Valdosta Beautiful received the Governor’s Circle Award. These inaugural, statewide awards were presented by Gov. Nathan Deal at the State Capitol .

    April 22, 2014

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results