Cheaper versions of the most popular form of emergency contraceptive pills have been made more accessible, thanks to the government.
The Food and Drug administration recently announced its decision to allow generic varieties of Plan B, the morning-after contraceptive, to be sold over the counter to women of all ages. The pill prevents most pregnancies if taken within 72 hours of unprotected test for women who ideally weigh less than 165 pounds. With costs varying from $30 to $45, Plan B is considerably more expansive that its generic counterparts by at least $10.
“For a teenager in trouble, that could mean the difference between getting the pill the morning after and not being able to get it at all,” said Bustle writer Sarah Hedgecock.
Kathleen Uhl, acting director of the FDA’s Office of Generic Drugs, penned a comprehensive letter announcing this decision, which will has generally pleased the women’s health groups that have been campaigning to make the popular emergency contraceptive pill more widely available.
A major move in the decade-long debate on access to the pill, this moment comes nearly one year after the FDA permitted the sale of Plan B without prescription and removed age restrictions, but also granted Teva Pharmaceuticals, the make of Plan-B, three years of protection from generic competition.
According to the FDA’s letter, Teva’s argument for exclusivity–mainly the issue of the pill’s non-prescription use in 15 and 16-year-olds–is “too broad.” The FDA also deemed the company’s proposal for conditions on labeling and marketing as “too restrictive.”
“This is a significant leap forward in obtaining full, over-the-counter status for emergency contraception and we commend the FDA for this decision,” said Jessica Arons, president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, in a statement.
“Everyone deserves a second chance to get it right, including the FDA. [Emergency contraception] can be used safely and effectively by people of all ages and it should be available without unnecessary and arbitrary barriers.”
While the generic versions of Plan B will still have labels stating that the contraceptive is meant for “women of 17 years of age or older,” the product is to remain on retail shelves without a requirement to produce proof of age, NPR reports.
“We hope and expect that all manufacturers of generic [emergency contraception] products will submit applications with the suggested labeling to the FDA immediately,” added Arons.
“The sooner generic [emergency contraception] becomes available without point-of-sale restrictions, the sooner people will be able to purchase a more affordable, timesensitive, back-up birth control option without delay.”