Julia*, a 25-year-old Manhattanite, was perplexed when she was carded at her local Rite Aid last weekend while trying to purchase the morning-after pill. She thought the FDA had recently approved OTC emergency contraception for all ages, so figured she'd be able to buy it with ease; instead, she had to ask an employee to help her obtain a paper placeholder from the "Family Planning" aisle's alarm-protected section, which she was instructed to bring to the pharmacy. The clerk asked her if she wanted Plan B One-Step or the generic version, which was $10 cheaper; when she chose the latter, she had to show ID. "The whole process was bizarre," Julia said. "Why is it still so complicated to buy an over-the-counter drug?"
Good question! The FDA's decision to grant market exclusivity to Teva Pharmaceuticals for over-the-counter Plan B One-Step for the next three years created a "patchwork system that's only going to result in continued confusion for consumers and retailers," said Jessica Arons, President and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project, a reproductive freedom advocacy group. Basically, it means that Plan B One-Step, which generally sells for about $40-50, will be the only emergency contraception product available over the counter for women younger than 17 until 2016. Soon, generic one-pill products (Next Choice One Dose and My Way) will be on shelves next to Plan B One-Step, but you'll need to prove you're 17 or older to buy them for around $35-45 a pop. If Plan B One-Step isn't available, teenagers 16 and younger will have to get a prescription for ella or generic two-pill Levonorgestrel tablets.