Access to EC Does Not Increase Incidence of Unprotected Sex
NEW YORK CITY — A new study published in the July 8 issue of British Medical Journal Online First confirms previous findings that women use emergency contraception (EC) responsibly. The study, which tracked the use of EC in Britain since it became available without a prescription in 2001, revealed that over-the-counter status does not decrease the use of regular contraceptive methods. In light of these results, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) today again urged the FDA to grant over-the-counter status to EC.
"Access to emergency contraception is good medicine. By delaying its decision, the FDA is flunking science and failing women," said PPFA Vice President of Medical Affairs Vanessa Cullins, M.D. "Women should have over-the-counter access to EC immediately. The FDA has allowed politics to pollute the sound judgment of medical experts, and we call on them to quit stalling."
To date the FDA has ignored overwhelming evidence in support of over-the-counter status for EC and has refused to issue a ruling.
"This study proves once again that women make responsible decisions when they have access to EC," said Cullins. "There is no legitimate reason to deny access to this safe, effective backup method of contraception."
On December 16, 2003, a joint hearing of the FDA Nonprescription Drugs and Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committees voted 23 to 4 to recommend that the FDA make Plan B emergency contraception available over the counter. On May 6, 2004, the FDA notified Barr Laboratories, which manufactures Plan B, that its application for over-the-counter status was denied, citing concerns about adolescent use. However, studies show that EC is safe for younger women and that they use EC responsibly. Studies also show that access to EC does not increase or encourage sexual activity among teens. The FDA was supposed to respond to a revised application from Barr allowing over-the-counter status only for women over 16 by January 26, 2005, but has not done so.
Emergency contraception pills contain hormones that reduce the risk of pregnancy when started within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse. The sooner EC is administered the better it works, making timely access critically important. Studies show that women do not rely on emergency contraception as a regular method of birth control. Research also indicates that widespread availability of EC could prevent 1.7 million unintended pregnancies and 800,000 abortions each year in the U.S.