March 24, 2009

Court Orders Availability Of Morning After Pill To 17 Years Olds

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday to reconsider its decision on the sale of the Plan B emergency contraceptive, also known as the morning after pill.

The court also ordered the pills' producer to make the contraceptive available to 17-year-olds without a prescription, under the same conditions that older women currently obtain the pills.

In a 52-page ruling, the court said its order must be complied with within 30 days.

The controversial Plan B, which reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancy after sexual intercourse, is currently available to women 18 and over without a prescription.  Women 17 and under were previously required to get a prescription for the pills, which work best when taken within 24 hours of sexual intercourse.

Barr Pharmaceuticals, which was recently acquired by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., sells the contraceptives.

The court also ordered the FDA to reconsider its decisions for Plan B over-the-counter sales. The pills are currently available only behind the counter, and women wanting to purchase the pills must ask a pharmacist.

Plan B's availability without a prescription in the United States was consistently delayed during former president George W. Bush's Administration, following staunch opposition from abortion opponents.

Ultimately, Plan B was approved with the age and availability limitations that will now be reconsidered by regulators.

"The court recognized that the FDA favored politics over science, ideology over women's health, and violated the law in the process," a Reuters report quoted Nancy Northrup, president of Center for Reproductive Rights, as saying.

"Emergency contraception is proven safe and effective, and today we have succeeded in expanding access to 17-year-olds and are one step closer to making it fully available to all women."

In its ruling, the court said it would be premature to take up various constitutional challenges to the FDA's Plan B decisions.


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