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Plan B- No Age Limit?

October 18th, 2013

By Jacob Farran, PharmD Student at Cedarville University School of Pharmacy

 

The Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive, commonly referred to as “the morning after pill,” has always been surrounded by controversy. As a behind the counter medication, the morning after pill used to only be able to be purchased by anyone who is 17 years or older without a prescription. Now, even more dispute is occurring because a new drug application was submitted to the FDA that allows Plan B to be sold without a prescription to anyone without age restrictions.1 The FDA approved of this and lifted the age restriction. This means that any person can now purchase Plan B without a prescription and without talking to her physician or pharmacist.  Plan B works by taking a large dose of the hormone levonorgestrel that can work in three possible ways including delaying ovulation, interfering with fertilization of the egg, or preventing the implantation of a fertilized in the uterus by altering its lining.3 The prevention of implantation is controversial, however it works by a similar mechanism to oral contraceptives.2 If Plan B does prevent implantation, it could act as a form of abortion if one considers life beginning at fertilization. There is great debate on where life begins since an egg is not viable without implantation. Plan B’s effectiveness was found to be between 52% and 94% in preventing pregnancy.4

This article reported that the age restriction on Plan B would be lifted and it was lifted shortly after this article was written, as there is no age restriction on Plan B now. The article also voiced opinions both for and against the decision to remove the age limit on Plan B. Annie Tummino, a coordinator of the National Women’s Liberation, said that women and girls should have “the absolute right to control our bodies without having to ask a doctor or a pharmacist for permission.” She went on to say, “It’s about time that the administration stopped opposing women having access to safe and effective birth control.”1 Cecil Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said the government’s decision to drop the appeal was “a huge breakthrough for access to birth control and a historic moment for women’s health and equity.”1 These two people and groups were obviously supporting the change to no age requirement. Others such as the anti-abortion group Family Research Council criticized the government by saying, “We’re very concerned and disappointed at the same time because what we see here is the government caving to political pressure instead of putting first the health and safety of women (and) parental rights.”1 President Obama is against the age change. He said, “As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine.”1

I agree with the anti-abortion group and President Obama that there needs to be an age limit on the Plan B pill. A women under 17 at least needs to talk to her healthcare provider about the risks and benefits before making a decision that big. My recommendation would be for young women to consult their parents and healthcare provider before using Plan B.  This article was limited due to a limited scope of opinion. Only opinions of politicians and organization leaders were included.  There were not any pharmacists or health care providers that voiced their opinion in this article. There is not any scientific evidence saying that we should or should not have an age restriction on Plan B; however, the intentions of this medication are to prevent conception of a baby. Statistics show that Plan B is successful in preventing more than 50% of pregnancies and is associated with side effects.

Should there be an age limit or not?

References

 

1.) Obama administration says it will allow all girls to have morning-after pill access | Fox News. (2013, June 11). Fox News Politics. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/06/11/federal-govermment-to-comply-with-new-york-morning-after-pill-ruling/

 

2.) How emergency contraceptives (the morning after pill) prevent pregnancy. (n.d.). Emergency Contraception. Retrieved October 16, 2013, from http://ec.princeton.edu/questions/ecwork.

 

3.) Plan B One-Step. (2012, August 5).WebMD Women’s Health. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from women.webmd.com/guide/plan-b

 

4.) Update on Emergency Contraception: Effectiveness . (2011, March 1).Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Retrieved October 16, 2013, from http://www.arhp.org/Publications-and-Resources/Clinical-Proceedings/EC/Effectiveness

4 Responses to “Plan B- No Age Limit?”

  1. Tiffany Zehel Says:

    I find it interesting that the article does not include the opinion of any health care professional. It is concerning knowing that girls can purchase the product without having to be counseled by the pharmacist to know how to take it correctly. It’s also concerning that there is no parental involvement required while every other procedure and recommendation requires parental consent. I believe the instance that plan B is needed is a major issue that needs parental guidance. It’s a shame that this drug has fallen under the pressure of politics instead of logic.

  2. Megan McNicol Says:

    This issue of Plan B is certainly a controversial one. It seems that there is a lot of confusion in the general public concerning exactly what the pill does. I don’t think many consumers understand just how the pill works-regarding whether it prevents fertilization, implantation, etc. Because of that, I think it is vital that all people, especially those under the age of 17 receive some sort of counseling before making decisions as severe as this one.

    I can’t help but wonder what the reasoning would be to drop the age restriction to 17. You mentioned Annie Tummino’s comment about girls deserving to have control of their bodies, however, if a girl was in a situation where one felt that Plan B was the best option for her, it was still accessible with a prescription. To me it seems like the only difference is that now no counseling or guidance is required for young girls dealing with pregnancy. To me, that is a scary and sad thought. It goes to show the vital role that a pharmacist can play in trying to connect with as many customers that they can to provide counseling on this important issue.

  3. Derrick Chapman Says:

    This is certainly a complex issue. There are many places where individual rights, moral issues, and health/safety converge. Why was there an age limit imposed in the first place? Was it because of moral issues/age of consent? Or was it because of safety concerns of the drug? I agree with your opinion from the moral standpoint wholeheartedly. Apart from the whole moral issue, I feel that there needs to be more restrictions and limitations purely from the safety standpoint. This drug will have higher risk when used in younger populations. Also, if the patient does not have any consultation with a healthcare professional, there is nothing to catch important drug interactions/contraindications. I think so many people get caught up in the moral debate of the Plan B, and overlook the all-too-important safety concerns with it.

  4. Jacob Coleman Says:

    First off I should say that I’ve engaged in a lot of discussion relating to emergency contraceptives and abortion, and yet I still don’t fully understand every aspect of the issue. I am not female and I can barely imagine having to choose between an inconvenient pregnancy (probably more than inconvenient) and using a product like Plan B. The fact that we are removing age regulations says something about how we raise our younger population. To young adults we now offer ease of access to products that upset our moral standards. There doesn’t seem to be the same level of discipline and self-restraint that there was ten and twenty years ago, and this worries me. I’ll admit that there are a lot of aspects of this topic that I haven’t fully thought through, but I agree that we should limit access to products like Plan B. As Christians we should also stress the importance of “plan A” and lovingly support those struggling to make good choices.

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