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GLOBAL | summer 2003


Scrip-less Contraception
Emergency over-the-counter pill is soon possible

Ms. Summer 2003

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Ms. Magazine Digest
Weekly News Digest

By next year, women in the United States may be able to join those in other countries who can purchase the "morning-after pill" without a doctor's prescription.

The Women's Capital Corporation (WCC), a pharmaceutical company headed by longtime reproductive health advocate
Dr. Sharon Camp, submitted a well-documented application to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April to allow its emergency contraceptive, Plan B, to be sold over the counter. Plan B, or levonorgestrel, consists of two pills of a high dose of the birth control hormone progestin. The side effects of the drug are minimal. And it works. Studies show that emergency contraception is 95 percent effective if taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, and 75 percent effective if taken within 72 hours. Non-prescription emergency contraceptives could prevent one million unintended pregnancies each year.

An over-the-counter morning-after pill? Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger (in 1917) would have been proud.

“Removing the prescription requirement is critical to giving women timely access to backup birth control,” says Camp, whose private- and non-profit-funded company markets reproductive technology that's been "orphaned" by major pharmaceutical companies. WCC has gathered clinical data on some 11,000 women who have safely used Plan B to prevent pregnancy. More than 60 medical organizations, including the American Medical Women's Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support the effort to make it more accessible. The FDA is expected to act on the petition within 10 months.