Pharyngula

FDA moving on Plan B

Suddenly, the FDA has decided to allow over-the-counter sales of the Plan B contraceptive. They’ve imposed an age restriction—you must be 18 or over to buy it—but it’s a smart move in the right direction, and it’s about time.

Comments

  1. #1 John Pexton
    July 31, 2006

    Hi PZ,

    Did you get my e-mail about you possibly coming up to NDSU?
    Well anyway I made a mistake, the group meets on Tuesday rather than Wednesday. Hope my adaptationist bend hasn’t put you off!

  2. #2 King Aardvark
    July 31, 2006

    Yup, good news.

    I wonder why it’s ok to abort fertilized eggs for emergency contraception purposes while Bush has vetoed the use of fertilized eggs for medical research. How come he isn’t getting in the way of this too?

  3. #3 No One of Consequence
    July 31, 2006

    PZ did a very detailed post about Plan-B a while back — it is not an abortion pill, it is a pregnancy prevention pill.

  4. #4 Steve_C
    July 31, 2006

    Well the science didn’t back up their claim that it was an abortion pill.
    I think the zealots at the FDA had to back down from the actual doctor’s and scientists at the FDA. The lawsuits were going to be coming in heavy and they weren’t going to be able
    to argue against it on a medical basis.

  5. #5 craig
    July 31, 2006

    I predict some kind of a shitstorm.

  6. #6 No One of Consequence
    July 31, 2006

    follow-up:

    Here is a link to PZ’s original post on Plan-B and my own take on it.

  7. #7 Craig Pennington
    July 31, 2006

    I wonder why it’s ok to abort fertilized eggs for emergency contraception…

    Plan B does not abort a fertilized egg. It does not prevent implantaion of a fertilized egg, it prevents ovulation. It works just like regular birth control. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/why_the_wingnuts_hate_plan_b.php

  8. #8 Carlie
    July 31, 2006

    I hope the makers of Plan B have a good marketing campaign – they need to heavily advertise that it prevents ovulation, not that it prevents pregnancy. If they say it loud enough and often enough, maybe the protesters will get the message. I don’t think “ovulation” is too difficult of a word for the general public to understand.

  9. #9 Nate
    July 31, 2006

    Great news! It’s about time. Now if only they would approve the vaccine against HPV.




  10. #10 theophylact
    July 31, 2006

    No, no: They haven’t yet decided to allow over-the-counter sale; they’ve only decided to consider it. We’ve been disappointed before; I’ll believe it when I see it. Besides, the Administration could always overrule the FDA’s decision.

  11. #11 King Aardvark
    July 31, 2006

    I must have been listening to the far right take on it because I was under the impression that Plan B prevented fertilized eggs from implanting. Thanks for the clear-up.

    In that case, they’d have to be batfuck crazy (or evil bastards) to not allow it.

  12. #12 King Aardvark
    July 31, 2006

    Also, it’s ridiculous that it’ll be limited to those aged 18+. It’s the younger girls who will likely need it most, since they have a greater social stygma against getting pregnant, therefore will be scared to seek out a presciption or talk to their parents. Plus, they likely don’t even have transportation to get to a doctor on their own.

  13. #13 tacitus
    July 31, 2006

    This is bloody typical of the Bush administration. They finally approved the OTC sale of Plan B, not on the merits of the argument, but purely as a political calculation designed to clear the way for a smooth confirmation process of Bush’s nominee for head of the FDA.

    They are playing politics with people’s lives, just like the House Republicans pairing the reduction of inheritance tax with a hike in the minimum wage. Bush claims to be a compassionate conservative (though when was the last time you heard that phrase?). Yet time and again, his administration demonstrates that they couldn’t care less about the common people, unless it’s to buy their votes and solicit cash of his supporters.

    Good news about Plan B, but when are they ever going to do the right thing simply because it happens to be the right thing to do? Time for a change, come November.

  14. #14 flame821
    July 31, 2006

    well, King A, they are both (for the most part)

    But I’m hoping the promise of heaps of lawsuits, particularly those involving women who had their prescriptions refused by their local pharmacists looms heavily on their minds while debating this. After all, if you cannot rely on a pharmacist to uphold his duty to dispense legally written medicine, then I guess we women need to take it upon ourselves.

    Because as much as I hate the lawsuit-happy culture of this nation, in this particular case I see it as a club to use against the theists who are trying to control bodies and minds that aren’t their own.

    Oh, and did you see some group of yahoos intend to fly a larger than life picture of a late term aborted fetus over the skies of Ohio? I hope someone can find a reason to stop that propaganda war before it gets started.

  15. #15 Blake Stacey
    July 31, 2006

    flame821 wrote as follows:

    Oh, and did you see some group of yahoos intend to fly a larger than life picture of a late term aborted fetus over the skies of Ohio?

    Let us retaliate by building a laser of stupendous size and projecting the image of a coathangar upon the Moon.

  16. #16 coz
    July 31, 2006

    I’m guessing ‘Plan B’ is the same as the morning after pill here in Australia. In the old days you went to your doctor and they cut out 4 pills from The Pill packet (or you did it yourself) and you took 2 12 hours apart and it was generally free.
    In the last few years ‘Postinor’ has been available over the counter all packaged up and costs anout $30 and with no real age restriction that I know of.

  17. #17 Reagan
    July 31, 2006

    It sounds to me like just some platitudes to help von Eschenbach’s confirmation hearing tomorrow. And the idea of limiting it to 18+ is ridiculous. What science is THAT based on?

  18. #18 MHB
    July 31, 2006

    Don’t celebrate too soon…

    Here’s what happened last year from the Village Voice
    http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0537,lombardi,67735,6.html
    and here’s what SHillary is doing this time around
    http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Clinton_Murray_to_block_FDA_nominee_0731.html

  19. #19 drncc
    July 31, 2006

    Heya Orac,

    Heh.

    Here in Canuckistan Plan B’s OTC, but not all pharms are okay with that. (Big fight here.)

    As coz said, it’s a few pills of OCP and a few more 12 hours later (of course, depends which OCP you’re on, easy math).

    This pending Bush-lite outlawing Plan B.

    –ncc–

  20. #20 ncc1701
    July 31, 2006

    Oops, I meant PZ.

    (linked by Orac, wasn’t paying attention)

    –ncc–

  21. #21 nicole
    July 31, 2006

    coz,
    Yes, Plan B is just the trade name for this particular morning-after pill. And though the regular pill isn’t indicated for the type of use you describe, it is pretty much the same thing, and I’ve seen several websites giving instructions as to how to “do it yourself” since OTC access has been denied for so long.
    The sad thing is that to, um, “us,” (for lack of a better term), the idea that it works like the pill makes it seem like it should be allowed…while to many religious conservatives that’s just another reason to ban oral contraceptives altogether, because they allegedly might possibly just maybe prevent implantation or who knows what all else.

  22. #22 drncc
    July 31, 2006

    Heya PZ,

    Heh.

    Here in Canuckistan Plan B’s OTC, but not all pharms are okay with that. (Big fight here.)

    As coz said, it’s a few pills of OCP and a few more 12 hours later (of course, depends which OCP you’re on, easy math).

    This pending Bush-lite outlawing Plan B.

    –ncc–

  23. #23 jim
    July 31, 2006

    While it would be best if it wasn’t limited to 18 year olds and up. You can bet your bottom dollar that a potentially pregnant 16 year old knows an 18 year old who can buy for her. It would be better than no access.

  24. #24 Damien
    July 31, 2006

    Now, if only the Pill itself was OTC, and/or covered by insurance…

  25. #25 Unstable Isotope
    July 31, 2006

    It’s just another delaying tactic so he can get his FDA commissioner candidate through. They’ve only agreed to talk to Barr Pharmaceuticals. A couple of months later I’m sure they’ll announce they need to “study” the issue some more.

  26. #26 Keanus
    July 31, 2006

    I think the FDA move is a tactic to get von Eschenbach confirmed by the Senate and nothing more. Note that they say nothing about what to do with women under 18. I’ll bet that if the Bush FDA approves OTC sales for Plan B, they’ll still require a prescription for those under 18 and probably also require that they have a parent with them when they present the prescription to be filled.

    By the way, check with the druggist you use as to whether or not they carry and will fill a prescription for Plan B. Local Planned Parenthood clinics in most places have polled their local pharmacies and some won’t carry the drug at all. Where we live, in suburban Philadelphia, CVS has a corporate poliicy to carry the drug and fill prescriptions. Rite-Aid had no corporate policy, leaving it up to the local pharmacy manager, so getting a prescription filled is hit or miss. As a result, even though my wife and I are retired and long past the need for Plan B (at least we hope so) we’ve switched from Rite-Aid to CVS and made clear to both why we did so. Check on your local options. Of course, the local Pro-Life coalition is pushing the drug stores in the opposite direction.

    Also note that the FDA, if they actually follow through on this announcement, will require that all Plan B stock, both OTC and prescription forms, be stored behind the counter, necessitating that ALL purchasers must ask a clerk for it–just like condoms were forty years ago. They clearly want to induce guilt and embarrassment, if at all posslble. Who knows, they may even require that a flashing red light go on for thirty seconds every time a woman asks for Plan B.

  27. #27 Abel Pharmboy
    July 31, 2006

    Keanus and Tacitus: I am with you completely; the timing is clearly a smokescreen to give von Eschenbach some positive momentum going into tomorrow’s Senate hearings.

    Thanks, PZ, for continuing to raise awareness of this ongoing issue.

  28. #28 Karey
    August 1, 2006

    “There’s clearly no way that the F.D.A. or Barr Labs could put a gender restriction on who buys the drug,” said Wendy Wright, the president of that group (Concerned Women of America). “You could have a statutory rapist buy the drug in order to cover up his abuse.”

    Thats fucking wonderful. They want minors to get pregnant in order to expose the abuse of a statutory rapist. And here’s a shocker: statutory rapists can buy condoms to over up their abuse too!

  29. #29 coz
    August 1, 2006

    That above comment is great. So lets stop its sale because on the vague off chance it may be used for Evil…bloody hell it might turn you blue too.

    I had a quick Google look about the use and issues in Australia. The Right to Lifers banging on, a few newspaper articles from 2003 when it was introduced, nothing much.
    Though it is offered in 37 countries so far.

    The director of Adolescent Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Susan Sawyer, says she would hope that making Postinor-2 more available would reduce Australia’s high teenage abortion rate – reported to be the second-highest in the developed world after the United States – and the high number of teenage mothers.
    The Age, 27/06/2003

    Effective sex education would help there too.
    Kinda off topic just watched ‘Penn and Teller- Bullshit’ episode on abstinance education- if you can call it that.
    Wow, talk about head in the sand mentality.

  30. #30 G. Tingey
    August 1, 2006

    Erm.

    I’ve asked these q’s. before, and got no answer.
    Will someone please elucidate …

    1: What about the vast majority of NATURAL abortions?
    2: What about all those fertilised eggs that do not implant?
    3: And what about thoise that do implant, and then drop out after a few days (usually a fatal mutation is the cause, and the developing placenta rejects – you get a heavy and late period.
    4: And what about all the “Missing Twins” and other pair-bits that appear during normal, natural births, showing that originally, there were two developing fetuses, but only one made it to full development?

    I would love to know what the “right-to-life” loonies, and “human life starts at fertilisation” cretins think of these issues.

    I have never heard or seen any one of them address the question(s) — and we have this lunacy over here (GB) as well, it is just that (at present) they have no power – though they make a lot of noise!
    The unspeakable Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor being the loudest.

  31. #31 craig
    August 1, 2006

    With the current makeup of the supreme court, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that lawsuits would force pharmacists to prescribe this. They might actually give the fundies a victory.

  32. #32 rrt
    August 1, 2006

    G. Tingey: I’m pretty sure the answer is that the situations you describe are “natural,” and therefore are God’s work. They would be wrong if they were human-caused because we don’t have the right to meddle in God’s domain, and/or our intent was to “evade responsibility for our actions.”

    So when we do it we’re “killing babies,” but it’s okay when God does it. Funny, where have I heard that before…?

  33. #33 Keanus
    August 1, 2006

    G. Tingey, rrt’s comment describes what I’ve encountered. I’ve had some exchanges with anti-abortion zealots at a Planned Parenthood clinic and their standard response is that all those events you list are “god’s will.” They, of course, are happy to thwart “god’s will” by benefitting from modern medicine and clean and healthy food, rather than dying an early death like their recent ancestors. Funny how they’re very selective about “god’s will.” If it’s their personal welfare, anything goes, but for someone else, they’re only too happy to dictate the outcome.

  34. #34 Ginger Yellow
    August 1, 2006

    Is there any possibility someone could win an equal protection case against the FDA over the age limit?

  35. #35 Lizardgirl
    August 1, 2006

    I was really hopeful when I saw this post- but if they’re just “considering” it I want to use the opportunity to get the word out.
    At http://www.getthepill.com/, they can get someone a prescription reasonably fast… although they don’t service all states and of course this doesn’t help if your pharmacy won’t stock/dispense the medication.

    Also, certain versions of the pill, in certain dosages, can be used for emergency contraception. I’ve heard of some people keeping some extra of their prescription around just for this. My understanding is it’s about as safe and effective as the packaged plan B product.
    If you folks really believe in this, tell the teenagers you know about these options (yes, even the 14 year olds if *remotely* appropriate to the individual).

  36. #36 Matt McIrvin
    August 2, 2006

    I must have been listening to the far right take on it because I was under the impression that Plan B prevented fertilized eggs from implanting. Thanks for the clear-up.

    Not to pick on you specifically, but it’s amazing how many perfectly intelligent people believe this–you’re not mistaken about what you heard, you’ve just been lied to. It’s the sign of an extraordinarily successful propaganda campaign.

    What made it easier, I think, is that there was a similar controversy several years ago about RU-486, which really does induce abortion (personally, I have no moral or other objection to RU-486, but it wouldn’t have been sensible to sell it OTC and nobody is proposing to). The plan of action seems to have been to muddy the waters about the difference between RU-486 and Plan B.

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