HHS Overrules FDA on Plan B

Despite scientific evidence that Plan B emergency contraception is safe for women of all ages, the department of Health and Human Services declined to approve it for over-the-counter use.

Tia Ghose
Dec 10, 2011

FLICKR, VIXYVIEW

After the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) overruled the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday regarding the approval of emergency contraceptive Plan B, many are wondering whether politics, not science, guided the decision. The department ruled to keep existing restrictions on Plan B, which currently cannot be sold without a prescription to those younger than 17, despite the FDA’s conclusion that the drug was safe and effective for fertile women of all ages and should be available over-the-counter.

As a rationale for keeping the restrictions in place, HHS head Kathleen Sebelius said that about 10 percent of women as young as 11 are physically capable of getting pregnant but may lack the cognitive and behavioral development to use Plan B properly.

But many question the scientific merits of the decision. FDA director Margaret Hamburg released a statement in response reiterating that the scientific evidence suggests...

The pill is no stranger to controversy. The FDA was accused during the Bush administration of bowing to conservative politics by resisting all over-the-counter use for the drug.

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