Plan B, the emergency contraception commonly known as the “morning after pill,” has been granted over-the-counter status and will be available without a prescription before the end of the year.
However, there’s a catch to the new over-the-counter status: it’s only for people age 18 and over. The Food and Drug Administration approved limited over-the-counter sales on Aug. 24.
“That was a political compromise,” said Dr. Miriam Piven Cotler, director of the Center for Healthcare Ethics and Policy in the health sciences department.
“There has been confusion between religion, science and special interests. I don’t think it had anything to do with safety or efficacy,” Cotler said.
Barr Pharmaceuticals, the company that produces Plan B, has been working for over-the-counter access since 2003. Reports showed the emergency contraceptive was safe for users of all ages.
“It was recommended that there was no age limit,” said Kristal Gordon, a clinical pharmacist at the Klotz Student Health Center.
“You don’t have any increase in incidences of adverse effects,” Gordon said. One reason behind the decision may be the hope to educate younger girls, to “funnel them through professional care,” she added.
Education for CSUN students and their partners is available at the health center in the form of doctors, nurse practitioners and peer groups such as Education and Resources on Sexuality.
“Our first offer is education, helping people make decisions that are appropriate for their plans,” said Dr. Yolanda Reid Chassiakos, director of the health center.
Humans, and their chosen birth control methods, are imperfect.
“If taken within 72 hours after an episode of unprotected intercourse, there is 89 percent protection from unplanned pregnancy. It’s a second chance at birth control,” said Chassiakos.
Supporters of Plan B have been quick to point out that it is an emergency contraceptive, not a form of abortion. Plan B helps women avoid that subject altogether.
As for the concerns that easier access to emergency contraception will lead to an increase in promiscuity, Chassiakos, Gordon and Cotler did not consider it an issue.
“The same concern was voiced when birth control pills first became available, same with condoms. There’s no evidence to support that. No evidence with abortion either. It’s a scare tactic,” said Cotler. “They’re the guys that tell you condoms don’t work.”
Supporters and critics alike have to wait a while to see how use is affected by the new status.
“Even though the FDA has approved it, it’s not over-the-counter yet,” said Gordon.
“It needs to be labeled and packaged for over-the-counter,” said Edick. “By law, the manufacturer has to provide certain information.”
Most over-the-counter medications have indicated uses and warnings clearly printed on their labels, and generally follow a basic format.
“When it’s by prescription, it’s assumed that the doctor and the pharmacist would have discussed any adverse side effects,” said Gordon.