WEB EXTRA: Morning-after pill to hit D.C. before ’07

The morning-after pill is expected to be available over the counter to adult women in D.C. before the end of 2006.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the emergency contraceptive, also called “Plan B,” to be sold without a prescription Aug. 24. Plan B reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89 percent when taken within 72 hours after sex, according to Duramed, the company manufacturing the drug. Women under 18 are still required to have a prescription.

Plan B is available through the student clinic, said Isabel Goldenberg, director of Student Health Service. The department has dispensed “quite a bit” of the emergency contraceptive, which she said should only be used as a secondary form of birth control.

When a student requests the drug, they receive information on other methods of birth control, Goldenberg said. Student Health plans to continue this informational procedure even after Plan B becomes available as an over-the-counter drug.

“I think it’s a safe medication; it is not a termination of pregnancy but a prevention of pregnancy, and any tool that women can have to be more in control of our reproduction is good,” she said. “It’s one more option.”

Freshman Paige Wagenknecht is enthusiastic about easier access to Plan B.

“I have a friend who would have problems and she would need it,” she said. “We drove to Planned Parenthood and it was closed. OTC makes it easier, because you don’t have to run around.”

Wagenknecht said she thinks student behavior will probably not change. “People will not be having more sex. I think people are a lot more worried about STDs than pregnancy.”

Some students said they are worried about misuse of the contraceptive.

“It’s good for people who are smart about it, but there’s a potential for abuse, as with a lot of things,” junior Mike Schmitz said.

Sophomore Anna Sicari said she is concerned about students knowing the possible effects of the drug since it hasn’t been as widely used when available only by prescription.

“There needs to be more information about it,” Sicari said. “There hasn’t been much out because they haven’t wanted (us) to use it.”

FDA approval came three years after an FDA advisory commission voted 23 to 4 in support of over-the-counter sales. In March 2005, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) threatened to block the nomination of Acting FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach as permanent commissioner until a conclusion had been reached on Plan B.

Some women’s health experts have applauded the drug’s new status, saying it is an effective emergency contraceptive when used quickly after a primary form of birth control fails.

“We’ve known for a long time that Plan B, when taken as soon as possible, is more effective,” said Dr. Susan Wysocki, president and CEO of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health. She said the over-the-counter status should increase its effectiveness.

Because of the drug’s dual prescription and over-the-counter status, it will only be carried by pharmacies with licensed practitioners.

Wysocki said, “Plan B will not be available at your local 7-Eleven.”

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