Planning for Plan B

With von Eschenbach's confirmation hearings held up in the Senate, Plan B could be sitting on a counter near you by month's end.

Published August 9, 2006 1:57PM (EDT)

It's kind of hard to believe that we're still covering this, but here's yet another update on the over-the-counter status of the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B:

As of yesterday, the New York Times reports, the Food and Drug Administration had struck an agreement with Plan B manufacturer Barr Laboratories that could lead to over-the-counter sales of the contraceptive within weeks. Barr Laboratories will resubmit its application for Plan B in the next 14 days and, FDA spokeswoman Susan Bro said, the agency will act quickly on the application. That's great news -- though we can't help wondering if acting "quickly" in FDA terms means sometime in the next millennium.

Acting FDA commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, whose confirmation is being held up in the Senate chiefly for his foot-dragging over the drug's over-the-counter-status (it has now been sitting on the table for three years), promises that the agency is no longer at an impasse on Plan B.

If approved, Plan B will be available at a pharmacy or licensed clinic near you -- where it will be helping to prevent unplanned pregnancy. The drug would be available only to women over the age of 18; anyone younger would still need a prescription. Bruce Downey, the chairman of Barr, told the Times that he'd hoped to make Plan B available to women of all ages, but, he conceded, "I don't have the ability to get all that I want." We know what you mean, Downey.

For those who want to better understand the opposition to Plan B, check out the Onion's sharp outline.

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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