European warning raises question on access to Plan B

In the article “Plan B less effective in overweight women” (Nov. 27) Deborah Kotz reports on the release of a recent warning by European drug regulators who say that an emergency contraceptive sold in Europe that is identical to Plan B in chemical composition may be less effective in women weighing over 165 pounds, and possibly ineffective in women weighing over 176 pounds. The US Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the efficacy data.

This issue raises the question of whether Plan B should remain over-the-counter (in the aisle) in the United States while the data are being considered, rather than behind-the-counter, as it is in most European countries, for all age groups.

Behind-the-counter implies that the person requesting Plan B without a prescription must consult a learned intermediary, a pharmacist, prior to gaining access. The pharmacist would instruct the person that Plan B should not be used as a routine birth control method, and provide information on any possible safety and efficacy issues.

Joshua P. Cohen


The writer is a senior research fellow and research assistant professor at the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.