April 29, 2009
Last week, the Obama Administration announced that it would not appeal a federal district court's decision commanding the FDA to begin selling the Plan B contraceptive to 17-year-olds as an over-the-counter product. Previously, the FDA and drug company set the lower age at 18. Plan B's manufacturer-distributor, Teva, will have to submit an application to FDA which the agency will then approve.
As we noted last week, the Family Research Council has been concerned that women might use Plan B frequently, repeatedly in the place of standard contraceptives. The labeling contains no clear warning about such use. FDA officials have pooh-poohed this argument, but one interesting anecdotal piece of evidence has come in on this topic.
The changes to Plan B marketing were discussed on "AirTalk," a public radio program broadcast by KPCC-FM, a station owned by Pasadena City College on April 23rd. The guest-host was David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times, and he interviewed Dr. Susan Woods, former FDA official and Plan B supporter, and Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. The show can be heard via this weblink.
There was one extremely interesting caller who was referred to as "Steve from Diamond Bar." (Steve start: 22min 05sec; Steve end: 23min 05sec.) Steve is a co-owner of a pharmacy, and he explained that a few years ago 30-minute consultations were needed before the pharmacists could dispense Plan B over-the-counter in California.
Steve had occasion to notice the buying patterns of his customers. He noted that many purchasers were responsible about using Plan B, but he also described a class of customer who came to the store "on a regular basis" and purchased Plan B "week after week." When David Lazarus asked him whether the repeat users "were a majority or minority of users," Steve responded that they were probably half of the Plan B purchasers.
Even if Steve from Diamond Bar did not remember correctly and inflated his estimate, it is clear that a substantial population of Plan B users were using this drug very frequently - as many have feared.