BY OUR PHARMA CORRESPONDENT
16 July, 2005: The United States Food and Drugs Administration will decide by Sept. 1 whether to allow sales of the controversial emergency contraceptive without a doctor’s prescription.
Currently, women in the US need a prescription to obtain the contraceptive, which also known as ``morning after pill’’ or Plan B.
The manufacturer, Barr Laboratories, has asked the FDA to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B for women 16 or older.
However, women below 15 would still need a prescription. Federal drug regulators rejected Barr's application to sell the drug over the counter in May 2004 citing the reason that the company had not shown that it could be used safely by "young adolescent women" without a doctor's supervision.
There is also a widespread apprehension that wider access to emergency contraceptives might increase risky behavior among young women and girls. Opponents of this policy are concerned that it encourages unprotected sex and increase promiscuity.
Marston, from the Imperial College Faculty of Medicine in London, and her team surveyed women ages 16 to 49 years in 2000, 2001 and 2002 regarding their use of contraceptives in general.
Answers to the surveys showed that the proportion of women reporting current use of contraception remained unchanged over time. Overall use of emergency contraception also remained the same.
For example, the proportion using emergency contraception once per year was 6.5 percent, 6.3 percent and 5.6 percent during each period. The proportion using emergency contraception more than once was 2.0 percent, 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent.
The contraceptive that contains levonorgestrel is supposed to be used within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, but it is most effective when taken sooner. The second tablet must be taken 12 hours later.