Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a simpler emergency contraceptive (EC) for purchase in pharmacies. Plan BTM has been available for several years and consisted of two pills that were taken 12 hours apart. The new version, Plan B One-StepTM is just one tablet, and is equally effective. Women over age 17 can buy either version at a pharmacy without a prescription.
Another version, PrevenTM, is available only by prescription.
All EC pills should be used within 72 hours of unprotected vaginal intercourse, and the sooner the better. These medicines are not recommended for use as a routine contraceptive, as they are less effective than other methods. EC medicines work by either preventing release of an egg from the woman’s ovary, preventing the egg and sperm from getting together, or preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.
EC’s do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, and do not terminate pregnancies that are already attached (implanted in the uterus). If you have questions about EC, see your health-care provider or ask a pharmacist. As always, make sure you read the package warnings and instructions carefully for all your medicines. Our Student Health pharmacy staff can assist you.
Emergency contraception is frequently needed in situations that can make a woman (or couple) very anxious. Having this medicine available upon request in most pharmacies makes it much more convenient for use within the proper time limit. But even though you can get the medicine without seeing your health-care provider you should not hesitate to contact them if you need help dealing with your fears or other concerns.
Roger Miller, MD for BuckMD