FDA Won’t Unplug Plan B Vending Machine

The FDA has decided to allow Shippensburg (Pa.) University to continue selling emergency contraceptives (EC) from a campus vending machine. While Plan B  has been dispensed for about 3 years on the Cumberland Valley campus, most students were not even aware of it’s availability until last spring when concerns arose over its accessibility.

The controversy first entered the spotlight last year amid an uproar over religious rights and birth control access, which sparked the FDA investigation over what was speculated to be the nation’s first Plan B vending machine. Plan B, which should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, is available over-the-counter for those 17 and older. That would include all Shippensburg students, according to Peter Gigliotti, executive director for university communications and marketing, and school officials have taken all necessary precautions to ensure the medication is administered properly. This includes placing the dispensary in the health center, which is only accessible to students after they have checked in at the front desk, and requiring students to swipe their I.D. card before receiving the medication.

The university began making Plan B available after a survey concluded that 85 percent of students supported easy and affordable access to emergency contraception. Each dose of the drug costs $25, and that’s the same amount the university pays from the distributor—which means that no state-supported or taxpayer dollars are used for the program.

Although this particular situation has caused national discussion, EC has already been widely available on college campuses across the country. According to a study by the American College Health Association, 83 percent of the representative sampling of 174 schools it surveyed dispense or sell similar medication.

Plan B is safe and effective when used as directed. (And probably a lot healthier than a lot of the junk food dispensed from most other college vending machines.)