by Kimberly Allen, RN
After a long legal battle on June 10th the federal government announced that it will drop it’s lawsuit to prevent the sale of the ‘morning after pill’ to girls under 17 years of age. This means that the emergency contraceptive “Plan B One-step” will be available over the counter to anyone regardless of age. However, only the Plan B One – Step will be available over the counter. The older 2 pill version and all generic equivalents will continue to be behind the counter. This has many concerned that by permitting one pharmaceutical company exclusive over the counter access will lead to exorbitant prices. This could price emergency contraception out of reach of millions of women and girls that need it. The executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund said “imposing unjust financial barriers to access sacrifices the rights of millions of poor and young women solely to benefit a pharmaceutical company.
So what is the Plan B One – Step? Basically it’s an updated version of the original Plan B. The original Plan B is a 2 dose regimen that was approved by the FDA in1999. You would take the 2 pills 12 hours apart. Each pill has 0.75mg of a hormone called levonorgestrel. Levonorgestrel is a synthetic hormone that has been used for birth control for over 35 years. however, the levels of this hormone are much higher in both Plan B and Plan B One – Step than in birth control pills. In 2009 Tera Pharmaceuticals received approval from the FDA for it’s updated version of Plan B, Plan B One – Step. The difference is that you take 1 pill that has 1.5mg of levonorgestrel instead of 2 pills that have 0.75mg each 12 hours apart. Research has indicated that the Plan B One – Step is just as effective as the original Plan B if taken with in the first 72 hours after unprotected sex, and with no increase in side effects.
How either Plan B or Plan B One – Step works depends on where you are in your cycle. It can either delay or prevent ovulation or it can interfere with the fertilization of an egg. It’s important to note that neither Plan B nor Plan B One – Step are the same as RU – 486. RU-486 is an abortion pill. Neither Plan B or Plan B One – Step will work if you’re already pregnant. They will not cause an abortion or miscarriage.
Because there’s no way to know how many women would have become pregnant it’s difficult to say for certain how effective Plan B and Plan B One – Step are. However, the World Health Organization held a trial on the effectiveness of levonorgestrel. The results indicated that if taken with in the first 24 hours after having unprotected sex it prevented 95% of expected pregnancies. When taken between 25 hours to 48 hours after unprotected sex its 85% effective against expected pregnancy and that drops to 58% when taken between 49 hours and 72 hours after unprotected sex.
When would you need to use Plan B or Plan B One – Step? Both Plan B and Plan B One – Step can be used if you didn’t use birth control or if you used a condom and it broke or came off or if your diaphragm slipped out of place. It can also be used if you forgot to take your regular birth control pill for at least 2 or 3 days or forgot to insert your ring or apply your patch. Though both Plan B and Plan B One – Step have been shown to be effective in preventing expected pregnancy they are not as effective as regular contraception and should not be used as your principle birth control method. They are also not effective when taken before having unprotected sex, they must be taken after unprotected sex to be effective. They are meant to be used as a “back up plan” that’s why the name Plan B.
Unfortunately, some women will have to come up with a Plan C if they do not have the money for the exclusive Plan B One Step.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at email@example.com.