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Plan B is a form of emergency contraception (EC) that is commonly called the “morning after pill.” The drug contains a high dose of a hormone called levonorgestrel, a form of progesterone that prevents pregnancy and conception by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary or stopping sperm from combining with the egg and is up to 89 percent effective for the prevention of pregnancy when used within 72 hours of having sex. EC is intended for use only in emergency situations where unprotected sex has accidentally occurred and is not meant to be used a regular form of contraception.

A new U.S. court ruling will now require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconsider a 2006 decision that limited access to EC. In addition, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York also ordered the FDA to allow 17-year-old girls access to the Plan B EC drug without requiring a prescription. The ruling comes only days after the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report for 2007 that showed an increase in the birth rate for teenage girls for the second consecutive year.

According to FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle, the court has given the FDA 30 days to allow nonprescription use of Plan B for 17-year-olds whereas the 2006 decision had allowed for behind-the-counter sales to only those age 18 and older who show proof of age. Girls under the age of 18 were required to obtain a prescription for the drug. The FDA has received the court's opinion, and is currently reviewing it.

In 2003, Barr Pharmaceuticals, manufacturer of Plan B, asked the FDA to allow the drug to be sold without a prescription and to have no age requirements for its access. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd recently acquired the company and Denise Bradley, a spokeswoman for Teva, remarked, “While we did not file the Citizens' Petition, the company believes that timely access to Plan B is extremely important, as the sooner Plan B is taken the more effective it is. We will work closely with the FDA to ensure that all provisions of this decision are met.” Company officials as well as advocates believe that it is critical to offer easy access of Plan B to young women for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

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