Judge orders FDA to remove restrictions on morning-after pill


NBC News reports that a judge has ordered the Food and Drug Administration to provide the morning-after pill without a prescription or any age restrictions.

Current law mandates that women 17 or older can buy the emergency contraception pill without a prescription. The pill (sometimes known by the brand name Plan B), which must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, prevents pregnancy. It is not the same as RU 486 (Mifepristone), which is taken after a pregnancy has been confirmed to induce an abortion.

The morning-after pill will not have an effect if taken when the patient is already pregnant. It will not terminate a pregnancy.

A reproductive-rights group sued to remove age and other restrictions on the drug.

Plan B (or the generic "Next Choice One-Dose" reduces the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Within 24 hours it's nearly 95 percent effective. Right now, girls under 17 need a prescription to make the $10 to $70 purchase, but a federal judge in New York ordered the FDA to make the product available without restrictions.

"We look at it as a victory for women's health. It is going to continue to reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy and that is a good thing," said Liz Carroll, Planned Parenthood patient services.

"I think that it might be a false sense of security for young girls but probably more importantly it might take molestation and child abuse and just put it under a blanket because we won't have any way of knowing that now," said Susan Swayze, Indiana Right to Life.

The judge ruled that the product should be available off the shelf within just 30 days. It could be appealed. Also, there are the logistics of what do do with all the product that right now has age restrictions.

Planned Parenthood of Indiana supplied 8,500 packages statewide last year.

"We are not changing our practice immediately because we need to look at what the packaging is on the current products we have and we want whatever we do to match the package that we are dispensing," said Carroll.

Learn more about the morning-after pill and how it works.