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The Food and Drug Administration has approved Plan B One Step, a brand of emergency contraceptive, to be available for women 15 and older without a prescription.

This comes almost a month after a federal judge orderedthe FDA to make Plan B available to everyone over-the-counter, which will go into effect on May 5, unless the FDA appeals the ruling.

“The Department of Justice is considering next steps in the litigation,” the FDA said in a statement. “In the meantime, the FDA took independent action to approve the pending application on Plan B One-Step for use without a prescription by women 15 years of age or older.”

ABC News

While I am glad that Plan B has been made available to women 15 years and older I also have a concern about it too. Plan B is available without a prescription over-the-counter (OTC) but regular birth control is not available OTC. This creates a situation where teens may find Plan B preferable to regular birth control due to ease of access. Not only is Plan B easier since you only have to go to the pharmacy as opposed to seeing a doctor before going to the pharmacy. But also teens would not need to engage their parents about birth control. Thus some teens may opt to use Plan B instead of regular birth control.

The problem is that Plan B is an emergency contraceptive and is not intended for regular use whereas regular birth control is intended for regular use. Though some teens may use Plan B as regular birth control despite the side effects due to the ease of access. I do not want teens abusing Plan B.

Since the issues lies with the fact that Plan B is available OTC without a prescription but regular birth control is not. So the obvious solution is to make regular birth control available OTC without a prescriptions. Unfortunately this is where things get complicated. Birth control has risks associated with it including cardiovascular events, side-effects and medication interactions. Patients should be aware of the risks involved with birth control before starting. If birth control is available OTC then many people will not both to read the information in the package and will be unaware of the risks. Whereas if it is prescribed by a doctor then the patient will be made aware of the risks by their doctor. In addition there is a potential of an interaction between the birth control and other medications. If birth control is available OTC then nobody is checking to ensure that there will be no drug interactions. But if birth control is obtained with a prescriptions then both the doctor and pharmacist are aware of the birth control and can check for drug interactions. For these reasons I am unsure if regular birth control should be available OTC.

I am not a doctor so I can’t say whether the benefits of making birth control OTC outweigh the risks. What I can say is that having Plan B available without a prescription but requiring a prescription for regular birth control can lead some to overuse Plan B due to ease of access. The FDA should reexamine whether or not there should be some forms of regular birth control that are safe enough to offer OTC.