FDA Approves Plan B One-Step Emergency Contraceptive for Use Without a Prescription

Plan B One Step approved as nonprescription product for all women of child bearing potential

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D

Today, the US Food and Drug Administration announced it has approved the use of Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel) as a nonprescription product for all women of child-bearing potential.

This action complies with the April 5, 2013 order of the United States District Court in New York to make levonorgestrel-containing emergency contraceptives available as an over-the-counter (OTC) product without age or point-of-sale restrictions.

Plan B One-Step is an emergency contraceptive intended to reduce the chance of pregnancy following unprotected sexual intercourse or a known or suspected contraceptive failure (e.g., condom).

Plan B One-Step is a single-dose pill (1.5 mg tablet) that is effective in decreasing the chance of pregnancy and should be taken as soon as possible within three days after unprotected sex.

On June 10, 2013, the agency notified a United States District Court judge in New York of its intent to comply with the court’s April 5, 2013 order instructing the FDA to make levonorgestrel-containing emergency contraceptives available as an over-the-counter (OTC) product without age or point-of-sale restrictions.

To comply, the FDA asked Teva Women’s Health, the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step, to submit a supplemental application seeking approval of the one-pill product to be made available without any restrictions. The agency has fulfilled its commitment to the court by promptly completing its review and approval of the supplemental application.

“Over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptive products has the potential to further decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies in the United States,” said Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Plan B One-Step was first approved in July 2009 for use without a prescription for women age 17 and older and as a prescription-only option for women younger than age 17.

In April 2013, the product was approved for nonprescription use for women as young as 15. With this approval, the product is now available without a prescription for use by all women of reproductive potential.

The product contains higher levels of a hormone found in some types of daily use oral hormonal contraceptive pills and works in a similar way to these contraceptive pills by stopping ovulation and therefore preventing pregnancy.

Plan B One-Step will not stop a pregnancy when a woman is already pregnant and there is no medical evidence that the product will harm a developing fetus.

The product will not protect a woman from HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. It is important that young women who are sexually active see a healthcare provider for routine checkups.

The healthcare provider should counsel the patient about, and test them for sexually transmitted diseases, discuss effective methods of routine birth control, and answer any other questions the patient may have.

Some women taking Plan B One-Step have reported experiencing the following side effects:  nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, dizziness and breast tenderness. These are similar to the side effects of regular prescription-only birth control pills.

The FDA, an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices.

The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.