There remains a great deal of trouble and confusion over the availability of the Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive pill from Teva Pharmaceuticals. Is it available by prescription and from what age? It is freely available on the store shelves of any store that wishes to purchase it? Or on pharmacy stock shelves?
Different pharmacy chains and individual stores, as well as single-store pharmacy businesses have been following very different rule sets across the country.
In Houston, one man visited the popular CVS Pharmacy chain as was turned away when attempting to purchase Plan B One Step for his partner. The female partner had asked him to go to the pharmacy on his behalf. He was told that the pharmacist needed to speak to the lady who would ultimately be taking the contraceptive. ABCNews, amongst others, covered this story:
Whilst the FDA is in charge of the new drug approval process, it is the federal agency, the U.S. Health and Human Services department that decide the distribution policy for each drug concerned. This ensures that someone unsuited is not able to purchase a drug they should not have access to.
Medication can be purchased in a variety of stores (like with aspirin or paracetamol), only in pharmacies over the counter (under the supervision of a dispensing pharmacist) or bought at a pharmacy only with a medical prescription from a doctor.
With the Plan B One Step emergency contraceptive, which is also known in some circles as the “morning after pill”, has strict rules as to how and where it is to be made available. This message did not clear through to pharmacies clearly enough, leading to consumers being turned away for a variety of different reasons and causing much confusion in the marketplace. This being an emergency medication to prevent unwanted pregnancy, such confusion and refusal to sell a drug to an end consumer, has dangerous consequences.
Plan B One Step is to be sold at pharmacies, over the counter directly through discussion with the pharmacist. However, unlike what has been reported, a pharmacist does not need to qualify the purchaser prior to agreeing to sell the Plan B drug. Plan B can be sold either with a prescription or without a prescription over the counter, to either a man or woman, if they are at least 17 years of age. Proof of age and ID needs to be supplied – usually a current driving license or passport both of which has a date of birth (DOB) – and this fully satisfies the purchasing criteria under federal law as laid down by the U.S. Health and Human Services department.
There have been problems particularly with men wishing to purchase the Plan B pill over the counter. Repeatedly, men has been turning away by mistaken pharmacists who administered the FDA requirements incorrectly. One man from New Jersey was turned down at RiteAid Pharmacies when he tried to purchase Plan B.
Consumer rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU), have started to do battle with large pharmacy groups like RiteAid seeking both an apology for its member and a clear reversal of improper practices so that all appropriate consumers can purchase Plan B when needed. This is a welcome step forward for when individual consumers are turned away and feel they have little direct resource with the defiant pharmacy and individual pharmacy employees who will not accept that they are wrong even when faced with the facts.