McKinley to adapt to FDA decision on ‘Plan B’

By Ryan Davis

As the controversial Food and Drug Administration decision to broaden access to Plan B reverberates across the country, McKinley Health Center is preparing to fall in line with the new standards of distribution.

Barr Pharmaceuticals, who manufactures the emergency contraceptive, told the Associated Press it hopes to begin non-prescription sales by the end of the year.

“When that happens, we plan to provide it both by behind-the-counter dispensing and by prescription,” said David Lawrance, medical director of McKinley Health Center.

McKinley will have to wait, however, until Barr revises its packaging so the emergency contraceptive can be dispersed in both prescription and non-prescription formats in accordance with FDA regulations.

“Currently, Barr only distributes products for prescription use,” said Lawrance.

“Thus, no pharmacies anywhere will be dispensing Plan B without a prescription until they have the revised packages,” he added.

Plan B will only be sold in pharmacies and health clinics, and buyers must show proof of age.

Anyone under 18 will still need a prescription.

“Though the press has been talking a lot about the ‘over-the-counter’ status of Plan B, remember that what the FDA actually approved Plan B for was for ‘behind-the-counter’ sale,” said Lawrance. “That is, a woman 18 or older will be able to get it from a pharmacist without a prescription.”

Lawrance emphasized that the pill will not be a product one can pick up off the shelf and purchase.

Plan B is made from a synthetic hormone found in regular oral contraceptives. There are two pills, the first of which should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex and the second 12 hours later.

Like regular contraceptive pills, Plan B acts by preventing ovulation or fertilization, according to the FDA.

“Side effects to Plan B are possible but are uncommon,” said Lawrance. “Some people may experience some nausea, but in my experience that has not been common at all.”

The FDA cautions that nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, and headaches are possible.

Predictions about increased use of Plan B are still uncertain, but McKinley aims to keep up with demand.

“Our goal is to never run out of any prescription or other product that we carry,” said Lawrance. “In this regard, we are at the mercy of the manufacturers and distributors and their ability to fulfill our orders.”

As of now, McKinley writes several prescriptions for Plan B every day, Lawrance said.

The pill’s popularity amongst college students may result from its success rate of 89 percent, as defined by Contraceptive Technology, a physician’s reference book.

Other studies have found the success rate to be slightly lower.

As McKinley waits for Barr to repackage Plan B, students are stepping up to voice their thoughts on the true merit of the emergency contraceptive.

Non-prescription distribution of plan B “could lead to an increase in unprotected sex and the spread of STDs,” said Kevin Moon, Junior in ACES, sharing a view widely cited by those contesting the FDA decision.

Others on campus see wider access to the pill as an advantage.

“It appears to me that if the pro-life movement was really dedicated to stopping the abortion of human fetuses, they would throw all of their weight behind the morning-after pill,” said Charlie Johnson, freshman in LAS.

“Which, if made available (without a prescription) could reduce the rate of abortions astronomically,” he added.