On Friday, Amy (our Duvall Project intern) and I had the pleasure of attending an annual conference in NYC that brings together all the experts and advocates involved in increasing women’s access to emergency contraception. Barr Laboratories/Duramed, the maker of emergency contraceptive Plan B, was even there to explain how exactly this medication will be made available in pharmacies as an over-the-counter product.
You may wonder, how on earth can these people talk about emergency contraception ALL DAY? Well, we did. And, we still have so much more to discuss, like how to address additional barriers to Plan B that may come up once Plan B is available over-the-counter (i.e. behind-the-counter) for individuals 18 and older. While there’s so much to cover and I’m sure you all are as captivated with the topic of EC as I am, I thought I’d share some of what we talked about. I’m a fan of lists, so here we go:
1. Plan B is expected to be available in pharmacies by mid-November! If you are over 18 years old, you can buy it as long as you have a “government-issued” I.D. You must go to the pharmacy counter to ask for it and be prepared to pay between $30-50. This price may vary in each individual pharmacy or pharmacy chain. Young women under age 18 will still require a prescription to purchase Plan B. It is unclear, at this point, how much this unnecessary, unscientifically-based age restriction will affect a minors’ ability to access EC.
2. It will be up to each state to determine whether or not their Medicaid program will continue to cover this “dual label” medication. This may greatly impact low-income women who cannot afford the hefty price for this medication out-of-pocket. As of 2005, Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program only covered EC in cases of rape or incest. So, there may not be such a great change in this state–EC was and probably will still be inaccessible to low-income women unless they seek it out at a family planning clinic.
3. States may also try to impose their own regulations on Plan B, disregarding the FDA’s recent decision for Plan B and requiring a prescription for all women (again). Plan B’s availablity would vary from state to state. If this type of action occurred in Pennsylvania, women in New Jersey or Ohio might be able to buy EC over-the-counter but you couldn’t.
It will be very interesting to see how all this unfolds. Advocates are working to anticipate and address these potential barriers and work with pharmacists to ensure that they are getting the education and support they need to make Plan B available to consumers.
Check out a newly improved website on EC and how to get it at not-2-late.com. One important thing to remember about EC is that it’s only effective if you use it!
Julie in Philly