Important Information about Emergency Birth Control Pills and Non-Prescription Status
In the United States, emergency contraception (morning after pills) are now available without a prescription for women and men 17 and older. Just ask your pharmacist for Plan B One-Step.
The newly approved Plan B One-Step is just one pill to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception is most effective when taken within three days (72 hours) of unprotected sex; it may still work up to five days (120 hours) after sex.
The original Plan B (which is a two pill dosage) is gradually being replaced in pharmacies by Plan B One-Step. Plan B is still available over-the counter to women and men aged 18 and older, and by prescription to younger women. If you are 17 years old, call your pharmacy first to see if they carry the new pill, Plan B One-Step, which is available over-the-counter to women and men aged 17 and older.
Emergency birth control pills meet all the FDA’s requirements for over-the-counter (non-prescription) status:
1) a woman can self-diagnose her need for emergency contraception;
2) swallowing pills does not require medical supervision; and
3) emergency birth control pills are safe and effective.
In 2004, the FDA’s joint advisory committee on women’s reproductive health voted 23 to four in favor of non-prescription status for Plan B® for young women ages 16 and over, but non-prescription status was only granted for women ages 18 and over. Young women under age 18 can get Plan B® with a prescription.
Two pharmacy chains, CVS and Walgreens, have announced that they will allow individual stores’ pharmacies to decide whether or not they will carry Plan B®; while Wal-Mart has announced that it will require its stores to stock Plan B® but will not require individual pharmacists to fill prescriptions for it. Find out how to get Plan B here.