The battle over where Plan B belongs in the drugstore continues: First, an April judicial ruling required the FDA to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter without any point-of-sale or age restrictions. Then, the Department of Justice later appealed the decision, asking for a temporary suspension of the case. The latest update: Earlier today, The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FDA must provide unrestricted over-the-counter access to some forms of emergency contraception, but not others, according to a recent press release from the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.
The new ruling says that the FDA does not need to provide OTC access to one-pill versions of emergency contraception (like Plan B One-Step); however, they do need to make two-pill versions available OTC immediately, without any age or point-of-sale restrictions. Essentially, it enforces the original order to put the morning after pill on store shelves, but only as it applies to the two-pill methods. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the FDA will now have 14 days to appeal this ruling, or they could comply and start working on getting two-pill doses (like the generic Levonorgestral tablets, 0.75mg) moved out from behind the pharmacy counter.
So why are they allowing the two-pill dose to hit shelves instead of the much more widely available one-pill version? It isn’t entirely clear. “I think it’s based on legal and procedural issues, not with what has been shown to be a safe and effective product—both in one pill and two pill versions,” says Susannah Baruch, interim president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.
While it might seem confusing that some forms of emergency contraception will be on store shelves while others will be behind the counter (and still others will require a prescription!), it’s important to note that all options are safe and effective forms of backup birth control, says Baruch. And this new ruling will mean that you can get the morning after pill whenever you need it—albeit in a slightly less convenient two-pill formula.
“This is a good day,” says Baruch.” We’re happy with the decision and eager to see what happens next. The path to full access to emergency contraception is open and we’re headed down that path.”