Not over-the-counter, not even behind it…

I’ve spent most of the past few weeks packing, moving and driving across the country to start my new job as associate web editor at The American Prospect in D.C. So I missed my chance to write a timely post about the FDA’s eased restrictions on Plan B sales.
This month Barr Labs finished repackaging the drug, and some pharmacies are starting to sell it without a prescription to women over 18. So most of the press coverage has incorrectly stated that Plan B is available “over-the-counter”. It’s not just the local news outlets that are getting it wrong. The Washington Post did say that, “Unlike many other OTC medications, it will not be sold at gas stations and convenience stores.” But it failed to come right out and say that “over-the counter” isn’t literally true — Plan B will still be sold only by licensed pharmacists, behind the pharmacy counter.
To be sure, I love any press for emergency contraception. After all, only 20% of women know what Plan B is or how it works. But the morning-after pill hasn’t begun “appearing in drugstores nationwide.â€? Most of the pharmacies that declined to stock it before the FDA status change are still failing to provide it. For example, conducted an informal survey of pharmacies in the state, and nearly half of them didn’t keep the drug in stock. One Walgreens questioned whether Plan B was even legal. I know of no national surveys of EC availability, but a May 2005 survey of Missouri pharmacies also showed that 70% didn’t stock emergency contraception.
Pharmacist refusals become a non-issue when stores refuse to carry Plan B at all. NARAL’s got a form letter you can send to pharmacy chains asking them to publicly pledge to keep the drug in stock. In the meantime, everyone should keep a dose of EC at home. And if your local pharmacies aren’t carrying it, there’s always Planned Parenthood or Emergency Kindness, the EC service.

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