For the last three years, Plan B has enjoyed an FDA-approved exclusivity window in which no other pharmaceutical product was allowed to compete with it. Any woman who wanted emergency contraception had to purchase the brand name Plan B.
As of Monday, other pharmaceutical companies are allowed to market generic emergency contraception. But if you're over 17, don't go to your corner drugstore expecting to find any.
Just because generic versions of emergency contraception are allowed to be sold doesn't mean that they are actually yet available to all women.
Confused? That's exactly the point.
The web of rules and restrictions about emergency contraception are hard to make sense of, and its controversial nature only adds to the confusion.
Currently, there are three options of emergency contraception available:
- Plan B (a two-pill product).
- Plan B One-Step (a new one-pill product from the manufacturers of Plan B).
- Next Choice (a generic version of Plan B, approved by the FDA in June for prescription use among women 17 and younger).
Here are the restrictions regarding access to each option:
- A 16-year-old needs a prescription to buy any form of emergency contraceptive.
- A 17-year-old needs a prescription for Next Choice but not for either version of Plan B.
- An 18-year-old has access to either Plan B over the counter but cannot get the generic Next Choice.
- An over-17 generic emergency contraceptive is not yet available.
It should be noted that the generic Next Choice is only marginally cheaper that Plan B; for example, the Newsweek article says that a pharmacy might sell Plan B for $45 and Next Choice for $41.
What are your thoughts on Plan B or generic forms of emergency contraception? Do you think these regulations are too restrictive or not enough?