The morning-after pill is to be made available over the counter to anyone in the US aged 15 and over, authorities announced on Tuesday. Days before a court-imposed deadline, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lowered the age limit for Plan B and said it that a prescription would no longer be required to buy it. Instead, the pill can sit on drugstore shelves just like condoms, but buyers will have to prove their age at the cash register.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that Plan B should be sold without restriction and gave the FDA 30 days to act. The FDA said its latest decision was independent of the court case.
Scientists, government health agencies and groups including the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended unrestricted access to emergency contraceptives for years. The FDA said in a December 2011 memo that “there is adequate and reasonable, well-supported, and science-based evidence that Plan B One-Step is safe and effective and should be approved for nonprescription use for all females of child-bearing potential”.
That recommendation, delivered as the campaign for the 2012 presidential election was getting under way, was overruled by the US secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius.
In a judgment last month, US federal district court judge Edward Korman described the restriction as “a strong showing of bad faith and improper political influence”. He said the decision was “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable”, and ruled Plan B should be made available without age restrictions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report