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Community Health: Education, Prevention and Inspiration

Empowering people to make healthy, respectful and responsible choices.

Emergency Contraception More Widely Available

Posted by Tammi A. Tannura -

On April 30, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the availability of one type of emergency contraception without a prescription to females 15 years of age and older. The FDA approved Plan B One-Step is a single-dose pill that is most effective if taken immediately or within 72 hours after unprotected sex.

To be clear, emergency contraception does not end a pregnancy. Emergency contraception reduces the possibility of pregnancy in situations where one form of birth control may have failed, (e.g., the condom broke due to incorrect condom use), or was not used. Emergency contraception also is offered to victims of sexual assault. Medical evidence demonstrates that emergency contraception does not harm an already existing pregnancy.

Plan B One-Step will be available in the family planning or female health aisles of retail outlet stores that have an onsite pharmacy. The product will be available for sale during the retailer's normal operating hours regardless of whether or not the pharmacy is open.

In order to safeguard that the product is not sold to those under the age of 15, product packaging will clearly state "Not for sale to those under 15 years of age *Proof of age required* Not for sale where age cannot be verified." A product code will prompt the cashier to verify the customer's age.

The approval of Plan B One-Step for use without a prescription by females 15 years of age and older was based on data that showed 15 year olds understood that the product was not for everyday use and that it did not protect them from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The study also looked at how well this group understood the product label without the assistance of a healthcare provider. The study was conducted by the Plan B One-Step manufacturer, Teva.

 While other methods of emergency contraception are available, Plan B One-Step is currently the only method available without a prescription to 15 year olds and older. Plan B One-Step is called "Plan B" simply because sexually active individuals need to have a "Plan A", or a regular method of contraception.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has many responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is to protect the public health by assuring the safety of drugs for human consumption.


FDA, emergency contraception. Food and Drug Administration. (April 30, 2013). Retrieved on May 24, 2013 from

What we do. Food and Drug Administration. (June 19, 2012). Retrieved on May 24, 2013 from

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