NY Judge Blasts FDA on Plan B Restrictions but Idaho Bill Could Limit Access--April 2009

April 9, 2009

A recent NY district court ruling and action by the Idaho House of Representatives have implications for Plan B dispensing.

Obtaining contraceptives such as the morning-after pill may be easier—and harder—after recent judicial and legislative actions in New York and Idaho.

A US District Court judge in New York has ordered the FDA to review its 2006 decision making levonorgestrel—the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B—available OTC only to women aged 18 and older. It instructed the agency to make Plan B available to 17-year-olds without a prescription within 30 days.

The court noted that, “despite the overwhelming evidence that Plan B could be used safely and effectively by 17-year-olds without a prescription, the FDA, citing fanciful and wholly unsubstantiated ‘enforcement’ concerns, arbitrarily and capriciously limited that age group’s access to Plan B.”

A number of health advocates, including the World Health Organization, support the use of levonorgestrel as a backup method for women of any age needing emergency contraception. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought suit against the FDA, described the ruling as “a tremendous victory for all Americans who expect the government to safeguard public health. The message is clear—the FDA should put medical science first and leave politics at the lab door.” FDA lawyers are currently reviewing the decision.

It is a different story out west, however, where Idaho residents may find their access to contraception limited if House Bill 216 becomes law. The measure would codify freedom of conscience protections for pharmacists, pharmacies, and institutions that refuse to provide any pharmaceutical care or drug for religious, moral, or ethical reasons.

The 48-21 House vote split largely along party lines, with opponents arguing it is not needed because no state law is on the books requiring pharmacists to fill prescriptions; supporters say it will protect employees by making existing pharmacist code of ethics protections law.

The legislation now moves to the Idaho Senate.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Patients Turn to Pharmacists for OTC Recommendations

Pharmacists in Diabetes Ten City Challenge Critical to Success

Pharmacies Move Toward Going Green