Girls younger than 17 can safely use emergency contraception without a prescription, and there is no reason they can't buy it over-the-counter. At least that's the conclusion from a study whose final analysis included 340 girls who requested emergency contraception from reproductive health clinics in 5 cities.
University of California researchers tracked the girls who came into the clinics. Of the 340 girls, 91.5% were able to appropriately decide when to use the pill. Also, 92.9% of the 298 girls who eventually took the pill used the contraception correctly.
"Restricting young females' use of a single-tablet emergency contraceptive by prescription only is not warranted, because females younger than 17 years can use it in a manner consistent with over-the-counter access," the researchers concluded in the study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
"This study confirms findings from two other studies that teens are able to understand (emergency contraception) labeling in order to use it safely and effectively," Megan Kavanaugh, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute in New York, told Reuters Health via email.
The study was funded by research grants from Teva ($TEVA) Women's Health Research.
Last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius set off a firestorm after trumping the FDA on expanding access to the Plan B contraceptive. At issue was whether Teva's product should be taken out from behind the pharmacists' counter, making it available outside pharmacy hours--and without a prescription for girls younger than 17 for the first time. The FDA was inclined to approve, but HHS intervened, overruling that decision.