The emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step will be available without a prescription for women aged 15 and over, the Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday (30 April).
The drug, also known as the morning-after pill, was previously available without a prescription only to women aged 17 and over. Consumers who buy the product must provide proof of age, the FDA said.
Plan B One-Step contains levonorgestrel, a hormone found in most birth control pills, but in a higher dose. It should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex and is intended to prevent pregnancy if other forms of contraception fail or if contraception has not been used, according to Teva Women’s Health, the company that makes Plan B.
The drug mainly prevents pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary and preventing fertilization of an egg, Dr. Christopher Estes, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, told MyHealthNewsDaily in a 2011 interview. While the drug causes changes in the lining of the uterus, it does not interfere with the implantation of a fertilised egg, Estes said. To stabilize the pregnancies of women who have suffered a miscarriage, doctors give a drug that is very similar to Plan B, Estes said.
The drug does not work if a woman is already pregnant. (According to Teva, this does not affect an existing pregnancy) Emergency contraception does not lead to an abortion.
If Plan B is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it prevents 89 percent of pregnancies, according to Planned Parenthood. The drug is less effective after three days, but can work up to five days after unprotected sex.
Plan B should not be used instead of regular contraception and, according to Teva, cannot prevent infection with sexually transmitted diseases.
Another form of emergency contraception, Ella (ulipristal), manufactured by Watson Pharma Inc. is prescription-only and, according to the FDA, can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days (120 hours) of unprotected sex. According to Planned Parenthood, this drug is 85 percent effective if taken within five days of unprotected sex.
Emergency contraception can cost between $10 and $70, Planned Parenthood said.
This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site of LiveScience. Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner Follow MyHealthNewsDaily @MyHealth_MHND, Facebook & Google Originally published on MyHealthNewsDaily.