Plan B- No Age Limit?

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October 18, 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

Posted in: Women's Health